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NBA Daily: Fight Night in Philadelphia

For a day, a Joel Embiid vs. Karl-Anthony Towns fight was the center of the NBA universe. Drew Mays has a recap before anointing the bout’s winners and losers.

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With 7:03 left in the third quarter, Joel Embiid hit a turnaround over his right shoulder – and over Karl-Anthony Towns.

Jeff Teague brought the ball up the floor and lazily ran a pick-and-roll with Towns as they got Embiid and Ben Simmons to switch defensive assignments.

Teague got the ball to Towns about 15-feet away from the basket. He dribbled once before Embiid came back to double him. He lost the ball, Simmons scooped it up, and he threw a bounce pass to Al Horford as he streaked toward the other end of the court.

The camera trailed Horford the whole way as the backcourt echoed with whistles. But, seconds later, Tobias Harris, Jake Layman, Josh Richardson and Andrew Wiggins brought the camera with them as they sprinted back toward the noise.

“Wow! And look at this. Woah! Embiid going at it with Karl-Anthony Towns,” shouted Philadelphia 76ers play-by-play man Marc Zumoff.

By the time the camera got to where the action was, it looked more like a rugby match than an NBA contest. A scrum of 10-12 players, coaches and officials bunched up on the baseline.

Meanwhile, plenty of players and fans were left wondering: What in the world just happened?

Their feud began awhile ago, in fact. On January 43, 2017, Embiid and Towns faced off for the second time (their first matchup was a fairly calm, uncompetitive exercise). The 76ers won 93-91 while Towns finished the game with a technical foul, something that Embiid was delighted about.

Then, on December 12, 2017, Philadelphia played the Timberwolves in Minnesota. The 76ers, once again, came away the victor as they won 118-112 in overtime on the back of Embiid’s 28 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists. Towns managed just 19 and 16.

Of course, Embiid took to Instagram to celebrate another win. Towns commented on the post: “That caption was as trash as your picture quality.” Embiid, in a snarky fashion, responded: “Better quality than your defense.”

And that brought us to two nights ago.

No one outside of Embiid and Towns can know for certain how long their grudge against each other has gone on in private. But this most recent scuffle began like any other; Embiid hooked his arm under Towns while Towns innocently kept both arms straight up to avoid the foul.

As Towns moved to shake him off, shoving ensued before it escalated into the brawl – surprising given the amount of smack talk that goes on in the NBA every day with little consequence.

Towns wrapped up Embiid before Embiid throws him off and they both stumble to the floor. The 6-foot-4, 195 pound Teague did his best to drag the 7-foot, 250 pound Embiid from the pile and towards the 76ers bench, while Simmons camped out on Towns back until the situation deescalated.

As Embiid moved away, he was immediately greeted, and congratulated, by none other than Mike Scott, who has never had a problem picking fights.

The 76ers’ center proceeded to shadowbox with the crowd as the ordeal was sorted out by officials. Both players were soon ejected, Embiid clapping as he left the floor while Towns, still visibly upset, entered the tunnel with a Timberwolves’ staff member holding him back.

Of course, it didn’t end there; Embiid and Towns continued to jab one another on social media.

Yikes.

Two hours later, Towns clapped back with his own outburst:

Double yikes.

It didn’t even stop there, as the two continued their back and forth on twitter. And now we’re here, as both players have backed off in the face of their respective two-game suspensions.

But we, as observers, have no need to stop anywhere. We’re free to gossip about the brawl however and for as long as we want. And, of course, there is a very real question that everyone should want answered: Who won and who lost the latest Fight Night in Philadelphia?

Winners

NBA Twitter

Everyone has made fun of NBA Twitter. But that doesn’t mean everyone doesn’t love or isn’ a part of NBA Twitter.

Between the hot takes, memes, screenshots and videos, NBA Twitter is the best place to be when a brawl like this breaks out, and it’s a clear reminder that the Internet, and social media, especially, can be fun.

Joel Embiid

This isn’t to say Embiid “won” the fight. In fact, with both players suspended, one could make the argument that Embiid, Towns and, ultimately, the fans lost because of their bout. But the fact of the matter is that this whole thing was very on-brand for Embiid; he has always been boisterous and unafraid to talk that talk, both on and off the court.

And, between the smack talk and the social media use, Embiid probably ones some fans over. He’s certainly lost no love over it.

Losers

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves were 3-0 before their matchup in Philadelphia, confident after two nice wins over the Brooklyn Nets and Miami HEAT. Now 3-1, Ryan Saunders and Co. will have to man the ship with their superstar set to miss the next two games.

If they 0-fer without Towns, their great start may not matter much.

Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards

The Rockets vs. Wizards game was a barn burner.

One that most of the country missed out on because of the fight.

Houston edged out Washington 159-158 as the Wizards tied the record for most points scored in a regulation loss in NBA history. James Harden exploded for 59 points on 18-32 shooting while Russell Westbrook chipped in his usual ho-hum triple-double of 17 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.

For Washington, Bradley Beal dropped 46 on a ridiculous 14-20, and Isaiah Thomas looked revitalized as he secured his first double-double since he left Boston; he finished with 17 points and 10 assists.

An offensive explosion like that, overshadowed by what happened in Philadelphia, is clearly a big loser, as are the fans. Sorry, guys, we’ll make sure to tune in next time.

That is, unless it’s also the same night as the next Embiid-Towns title bout.

Drew Mays is a basketball writer currently based in Louisville, Kentucky. Find him on Twitter @dmays0

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