The NBA reacted swiftly, suspending both players for two games without pay “for their roles in an on-court altercation and for their continued escalation following the incident.”
The violent episode, which drew players from both teams in a scrum, unfolded with just under seven minutes to go in the third quarter. Under pressure from Embiid, Towns lost the ball near his team’s basket, and as play headed toward the other side of the court the two became tangled and then starting shoving each other.
Towns appeared to throw a punch at Embiid that missed but resulted in both players grappling as they went to the floor. At one point, Towns found himself on the court while in a headlock applied by Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons. Embiid emerged with a smile on his face, and he celebrated at the 76ers’ bench before exhorting fans to give him an ovation.
Embiid, a native of Cameroon known for an active social media presence and an affinity for trash talk, did some post-fight crowing on Twitter.
“Great team win!!!” he tweeted of the 76ers’ 117-95 victory. “I was raised around lions and a cat pulled on me tonight lmao. Got his mama giving middle fingers left and right. That’s some SERIOUS REAL ESTATE.”
“I was built for this city,” Embiid told reporters. “The love they have for me, I can’t thank them enough. I appreciate all the love. That reaction was probably the loudest I ever heard them. That’s what the city of Philadelphia is all about.
“You gotta come in here, you gotta fight, you gotta play hard, you gotta be gritty, you gotta be a Broad Street Bully. We’re gonna keep on fighting and try to accomplish the goal we have set for us.”
“I like to get in people’s minds,” Embiid added.
The drama continued through the night. After saying at a postgame news conference, “Well, first of all, I ain’t no b----,” Embiid produced a Twitter post that appeared to display a taunt Towns had directed at him online. Embiid fired back with a sexual-related expletive, adding, “Been kicking your a-- and pretty please make the playoffs before you talk. It’s a known thing that I OWN YOU.” Towns then tweeted a series of unflattering images of Embiid.
In his postgame comments, Towns downplayed the melee, saying, “It’s a competitive game. As a team, we need to play better with our system. We didn’t execute our game plan.”
“As you can see tonight, [he’s] got a lot of fight in him,” Minnesota guard Jeff Teague said of Towns, via ESPN. “Last year, I wouldn’t say he wouldn’t do that or he would’ve took it, but he’s here to make a statement. I think tonight it just showed a lot of heart. I’m riding with him.”
Philadelphia Coach Brett Brown said he didn’t think Embiid would earn a suspension from the NBA, pointing out the latter didn’t throw a punch and saying he didn’t believe that his all-star center was the “instigator” of the brawl.