Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams said the incident involving him and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid on Friday night was common in basketball games and acknowledged that it was unintentional.
“I was like, dang, I really got curb stomped!” Williams told reporters. “I got curb stomped a little bit, but it wasn’t intentional. It’s the playoffs, so you expect battles like this. You expect to bleed, you expect to be elbowed. It’s nothing new. So for me, it was just like, get me back into the game as soon as possible.”
Newly appointed MVP Embiid accidentally stomped on Williams’ head in the fourth quarter of Game 3 in the Eastern Conference semifinals series, where the Celtics defeated the Sixers 114-102.
Embiid lost balance and fell backward as Williams attempted to jump amid a chase for a loose ball. The Celtics forward got his face smushed onto the hardwood floor, making him receive “three or four stitches” in his mouth. Williams will wear a mouthguard for subsequent games.
Embiid approached Williams after the latter re-entered the game to apologize and explained why he fell, with Williams assuring him that it was alright. Williams said he was “thankful” that Embiid did not fully lean his weight to cause worse injuries.
Williams’ teammate Jaylen Brown said it was “the craziest thing” he had ever seen on a court because of Embiid’s large stature. Celtics guard Jayson Tatum called the incident “nasty.”
The incident was not the first stomp in this year’s playoffs. Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green stomped on Sacramento Kings’ center Domantas Sabonis’ chest in the first-round series between the two teams. The referees ejected Green from the game even though the Warriors’ center claimed his leg was grabbed.
The league eventually suspended Green for one game after considering the stomp intentional and “Green’s history of unsportsmanlike acts.” Green was involved in an altercation in the 2016 NBA Finals, where he punched LeBron James in the groin.
Unlike Green, Embiid did not receive a penalty for the incident with Williams.
The Friday game helped Boston lead 2-1 in the seven-game series. The Sixers defeated the Celtics 119-115 in Game 1, with Embiid placed on injured leave. Embiid returned for Game 2, which ended with Boston achieving a 121-87 victory over Philadelphia. Embiid posted 30 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks on Friday.
Analysts said Boston showed a well-balanced performance on Friday. De’Anthony Melton scored a three-pointer to award Boston a 100-92 lead in the last quarter. Al Horford later gave the team another three-pointer to create a seven-point lead.
Embiid said Philadelphia had held the ball “too long, too much.” He said his team did not start taking action quickly, making them unable to score enough points. According to analysts, the Sixers spent the last part of the game “playing catch-up” with the Celtics.
Analysts pointed out that Embiid did not get enough help from teammates James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, scoring 12 points by himself in the third quarter. Harden’s cumulative 5-for-28 shooting in the last two appearances is his worst record in regular seasons and playoffs.
Harden missed two consecutive jumpers and fouled Brown on a layup, awarding the opponent a free throw that further extended the score gap.
The Celtics and the Sixers will meet for Game 4 on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center. The former remains a favorite for the Eastern Conference, especially after the top contender Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Miami Heat.
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