The Los Angeles Clippers’ intensity fell to match the aggressive play of the Philadelphia 76ers on New Year’s Day.
Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley shoved each other after fighting for a rebound and were immediately hit with double technical fouls that led to both players being ejected with 7:01 remaining in the fourth quarter.
By that time, the 76ers (24-14) were already clinging onto a 15-point advantage and then Joel Embiid returned to the floor to hand the Clippers (21-16) a 119-113 loss Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Embiid recorded his NBA-leading 32nd double-double of the season with 28 points and 19 rebounds in a dominant effort.
”My goal is to be dominant every game,” Embiid said. ”If I dominate, the numbers will come, but most important is that we win.”
Former Clippers sharpshooter JJ Redick finished with 19 points, Butler added 16 and point forward Ben Simmons came close to a triple-double with 14 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Philadelphia held Los Angeles to 20 percent shooting from three-point distance, making only 5 of 25 shots.
”Give Philly credit,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after his team was outrebounded 55-to-41. ”They were the instigator all game. They deserved to win. They played harder for longer.”
Lou Williams led the Clippers with 22 points, while Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari both added 21 points apiece.
The 76ers scored a season-high 76 points through two quarters of play, taking an 18-point lead into the second half.
In the third quarter, Embiid and Simmons got tangled up trying to get a rebound, where Embiid’s frustrated reaction caused everyone to wonder.
”I was going for the ball and I got hit in the face and I freaked out because I got hit where I had surgery and I didn’t want it to be re-injured,” Embiid said.
Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown added that Embiid’s reaction was out of “frustration and initial fear,” referring to last season’s facial injury.
Even after an abysmal first half for Los Angeles, the Clippers ultimately went on to outscore the 76ers (30-25 and 25-18) in the third and fourth quarter.
The fourth ejection of Bradley and Butler clearly favored Los Angeles in the final seven minutes, as the Clippers went on a 16-6 run to get within five after Montrezl Harrell made a lay-up with 32.7 seconds left.
”We waited too long and had to fight and ran out of gas,” Harrell said.
Out the timeout, the 76ers drew up a perfect play that led to Simmons putting the game away with a ferocious uncontested dunk.
“The game was physical, and I like it physical and aggressive,” Embiid said. “This was a huge win for us.”
“I like it. I’m a competitive man,” said Butler on the physical play and ejection with Bradley. “We supposed to be enemies on the floor. That’s what Philly likes to see.”