Joel Embiid suspended: Here’s what happened in the Sixers center’s brawl

His beef with Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns goes way back.

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Bill Streicher / USA TODAY
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Updated 6:25 p.m.

Joel “The Process” Embiid might’ve earned himself a new nickname: The Lion.

The charismatic Sixers center was on Thursday suspended for two games without pay, along with arch nemesis Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves, according to an NBA official. The suspension — and new nickname — stem from an explosive fight at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night.

The brawl between Embiid and Towns might’ve looked like it came out of nowhere, especially to the less-engaged sports fan. But in truth it’s been years in the making.

First of all, did the Sixers win the game?

Yes, 117-95.

Alright, bet. So, who started the fight?

It’s not really clear who started the fight. It appears Embiid and Towns got locked up after a move by Embiid forced Towns to turn over the ball and led to a two-point play for the Sixers from #12 Tobias Harris. That’s when the two got into it.

Who all was involved?

Embiid and Towns were the main wrestlers, but several players on both teams sprung into action to break up the fight. Jeff Teague of the Timberwolves tackled Embiid, the Sixers’ Ben Simmons physically subdued Towns with what looks like a chokehold and then things dispersed.

Was anyone hurt?

Nah. Embiid said he didn’t throw any punches, and if Towns did (we can’t quite tell from the video but reports are saying he did), Embiid told reporters in a postgame interview that the hits didn’t connect.

There are some pretty great shots of Embiid nearly poking out Towns’ eye, though.

Which players got ejected?

Embiid left the game in a blaze of glory. Towns was ejected, too, but exited less stylishly. Referees said Simmons acted as a peacemaker and he was allowed to play the rest of the game, which was in its 3rd quarter.

How did players involved in the brawl react afterward?

Neither player backed down or showed any remorse after fighting.

Embiid took to social media to punctuate his physical dominance over the cat, a play on Towns’ acronymic alias KAT. He taunted the Timberwolves center and mentioned Towns’ mother.

Towns responded online last night with a petty slideshow Instagram post of his own that ended with an image of Embiid crying after an eastern conference finals loss last year.

Simmons was just ready for spooky szn.

This seemed so random. Was it?

Not really.

A public feud brewed between the two in 2017 after Embiid, known around the league for his showboating antics, posted an on-brand photo and caption about his role in the Sixers’ 118-12 win over the Timberwolves.

“Euro stepping our way through Minnesota and we ended up raising the cat last night,” the Sixers center said on Instagram, a direct reference KAT after he’d crossed up Towns during the game. Towns shot back about the grainy picture quality only to be owned by Embiid once again. “Better quality than your defense,” Embiid responded.

Is that what led up to the fight?

Part of it! A little more lingering animosity may rest in the fact that Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler asked to be traded from the team because of tensions with the franchise’s younger players, including Towns. Butler ended up on the Sixers before going on to the Miami Heat. During that 2018 season, the Sixers made it to the NBA playoffs but without Butler, Towns and the Timberwolves did not.

Add the cross-sport context that the Minnesota Vikings are still a little salty about being washed by the Eagles in a 38-7 NFC East championship win in 2017, and it makes sense that there would be some bad blood.

What are the teams saying?

Sixers head coach Brett Brown said he doesn’t think Embiid should be suspended because he wasn’t the instigator.

For his part, Embiid told reporters he doesn’t feel he should be suspended because he didn’t throw any punches. He downplayed the incident as just part of the game of basketball.

“That’s what I’m good at, I like to get in people’s mind,” Embiid told reporters after the game. “But it’s the game. We’re just having fun.”

The Timberwolves have been pretty quiet. The main account tweeted this after the game:

According to ESPN, though, the Timberwolves have rejected the officials’ assessment that Simmons was a neutral party on the grounds that Simmons put Towns in a “dangerous chokehold.”

Mike Scott’s reaction was classic Mike Scott.

Will the players face any penalties?

Official NBA policy says players ejected for fighting face fines up to $50,000 and potential multi-game suspension. According to an official, both Embiid and Towns have been suspended for two games without pay for their part in this. There was no announced fine for Ben Simmons.

What’s next for the Sixers?

The undefeated team plays its next game against the Trailblazers this Saturday at 10 p.m.

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