Joel Embiid went from fouling out to staying in.
Philadelphia’s All-Star had 36 points and 18 rebounds and played the final 4:12 after a charging call for his sixth foul was overturned, leading the 76ers to their sixth straight victory, 118-109 over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
James Harden added 28 points, and Tyrese Maxey had 23 for the Sixers. They were up 108-101 when Embiid was whistled for ploughing into Evan Mobley while making a jumper.
As Cleveland fans began to celebrate Embiid’s apparent disqualification, Sixers coach Doc Rivers immediately challenged the call, which was overturned after a replay review and the superstar was allowed to stay on the floor.
“I thought he flopped,” Rivers said. “I called that one right away. I didn’t even look at my (replay) guy. I thought there was a good chance they would overturn it. I didn’t think they would foul Joel out on that.”
Afterwards, Embiid said he was confident the call would be changed.
“I thought it was a good call (to overturn),” Embiid said. “I never extended my arm. Right before the hit, you could see he was already starting to flop. I watch basketball every day and I was pretty confident they would call it the other way.”
Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff saw it differently.
“It’s clear as day that’s a charge,” Bickerstaff said. “There’s no doubt about it. The call was made on the floor. He stands between him and the basket. Evan laid it all out on the line. Guys ought to be rewarded for that. If you stick your nose in there and sacrifice your body, you should be rewarded for the correct play.”
Bickerstaff wasn’t satisfied with the explanation he received from officiating crew of John Goble, Nick Bucher and Derek Richardson.
“They said there wasn’t enough contact to be a charge,” said Bickerstaff. “I mean, there’s a 300-pound man who bowls through your chest, it’s a charge. It’s that simple.”
With Embiid in foul trouble, the Cavs attacked the rim and closed to 110-107 before Maxey drained a 3-pointer, and the 76ers made five straight free throws in the final 51 seconds to close it out.
Philadelphia went 2-1 vs. Cleveland and wins any tiebreaker for playoff seeding.
Caris LeVert scored 24 points, and Donovan Mitchell added 21 for the Cavs, who were playing the second night of a back-to-back. Cleveland was without center Jarrett Allen, who missed his third straight game with a bruised right eye.
The Cavs have tried various defensive schemes — double- and triple-teams, shadowing — to try and slow the versatile Embiid, a rare big man who can play out on the perimeter and inside.
“This is a unique human being we’re talking about,” Bickerstaff said before the game. “We’ll keep throwing things at him and see if something sticks.”
It didn’t start well for Cleveland as Embiid drew two fouls on the Cavs in the first 43 seconds.
But although he was giving up 65 pounds, Mobley showed no fear while guarding the massive center, and he got plenty of help as the Cavs collapsed on Embiid any time he touched the ball near the hoop.
Embiid made his trips to the foul line count, sinking all 10 attempts. Harden went 9 of 12 from the line.
“Not taking anything away from those guys, they’re phenomenal basketball players, and they know how to play within the rules,” Bickerstaff said. “I was with James for four years in Houston, and he’s a master at manipulating the rules, and Joel does the same.”
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