CLEVELAND — The final moments of the Philadelphia 76ers’ 108-97 win over the Cavaliers on Thursday took an unexpected turn when Cavs guard Jordan Clarkson threw a ball at Sixers forward Dario Saric‘s back and was summarily ejected.
With Philadelphia up by eight points and having an opportunity to run out the clock with the game already in hand, Saric dunked with 12.2 seconds remaining.
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Upon collecting the ball after it went through the hoop, Clarkson tossed it at Saric’s back and was called for a technical foul, before being ejected.
“Uh, basketball, that’s it,” Clarkson said of the incident. “Part of the game. If anybody say different, that they wouldn’t have did that, that they’d have did something different or anything else, they lying. Especially if it was at that [point] of the game. They know what’s up. That’s it.”
Clarkson was referring to an unwritten rule in basketball: The team that has the win comfortably in hand should simply milk the clock in garbage time rather than go for any late buckets.
Minutes earlier, Saric hit a 3-pointer right in front of the Cavs’ bench to give the Sixers a four-point lead with 2:09 remaining and turned to say something to Cleveland players before running back on defense.
Clarkson said that play didn’t factor into him throwing the ball at Saric.
“Oh, I ain’t even see that,” Clarkson said. “You know, it was just part of the game.”
Asked what he thought of Clarkson’s act, James sidestepped any specific commentary.
“Listen, they won the game,” James said.
Multiple Cavs players told ESPN that they respected the newly acquired Clarkson for taking action and said they appreciated him showing pride on their home court.
With Clarkson ejected, the Cavs subbed rookie London Perrantes into the game. With the game already decided, Perrantes shot a 3-pointer on the final possession and missed.
After the final buzzer, James hugged or acknowledged several members of the Sixers by their bench, including Redick and Joel Embiid, as cooler heads had prevailed.
Embiid threw a not-so-subtle hint to James via Instagram after the game, posting a photo of the two along with the hashtag “summer2018goals,” though he quickly backtracked in a post that followed.
A post shared by Joel “The Process” Embiid (@joelembiid) on Mar 1, 2018 at 8:52pm PST
James also took to his Instagram account to praise Sixers rookie Ben Simmons, with whom he shares an agent, Rich Paul, at Klutch Sports, and to encourage Embiid.
I told y’all a while back that my young King was next in line! Getting better and better every night out! Tonight another example of that. Fun to watch and compete against you again and #TheProcess @joelembiid. Remember lil bro settle for nothing less than GREATNESS!!! @bensimmons
A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on Mar 1, 2018 at 9:52pm PST
Simmons and James were effusive in their praise of each other in postgame media sessions.
“I know he’s a great, competitive player, and I’m the same way,” Simmons said. “Playing against him, obviously one of the best to play the game, so it’s a great vibe out there.”
James was asked what matchup problems the 6-foot-10, 230-pound Simmons presents when he lines up at point guard.
“The same one I bring,” James said. “Power, speed, quickness, size, court awareness. Same one I bring.”