A 22-point Sixers win over the Timberwolves might have set the table for one of the NBA’s best rivalries. A high-intensity scrap centered around Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns started on the court, and persisted into the night on social media.
With the ball on the opposite side of the court, midway through the third quarter, Towns tried to land a punch on Embiid. It misfired, leaving the two seven-footers to tussle their way towards the ground. Ben Simmons, Embiid’s 7’ teammate, came to his defense after the initial Towns swing, grappling with Towns as the trio crashed to the hardwood.
Embiid was pulled from the mess by Timberwolves point guard Jeff Teague. From there, Embiid’s part in the brawl ended, but the show continued. After convening with hard-nosed teammate Mike Scott, Embiid threw air-punches to indicate that he had more left in the tank.
Meanwhile, the fight was still going. Simmons held Towns in a chokehold on the floor as the Wolves star appeared to tap out as if this was a real wrestling match. When the grip was lifted, Towns was escorted by staff. Embiid was smiling in the corner with an amped Sixers bench.
Embiid and Towns are both in the conversation for MVP. The Sixers all-star is 25 years old. The Wolves’ is 23. They’re both reaching their peaks at the same time. The NBA might have its next greatest superstar rivalry.
So what led to this?
Embiid and Towns have (kinda) fought in the past
Two seasons ago, the Sixers bested the Wolves, 118-112, in overtime. Embiid led the way for Philly with 28 points, at one point taunting Towns when he was called for a technical.
Embiid then posted an Instagram of himself scoring a layup while Towns watched. “Euro stepping our way through Minnesota and we ended up raising the cat last night #TheProcess,” he captioned the picture. At the time, ‘raising the cat’ was the Sixers’ rallying cry after Simmons started doing it on social media.
Towns commented, “That caption was as trash as your picture quality.”
Embiid replied, “Better quality than your defense.”
The next year, the Sixers acquired Jimmy Butler from the Timberwolves via a trade. Butler and Towns had beef in Minnesota. Who knows what Butler told Embiid about Towns.
That brings us to Wednesday night.
Both Embiid and Towns promised nothing would happen in this game
Before the season, Embiid, on The Lowe Post, agreed he might never talk trash again. “I’m not talking trash ever again. Allegedly. Maybe,” he said. “I’m done with all that. That’s what I’m saying now, but we’re going to see if I can hold up to it.”
Before the game on Wednesday, Towns said he wasn’t focused on his matchup with Embiid. “I know everyone wants to hype it up, I mean, that’s what sells papers, but I ain’t in the business of making y’all money. I’m in the business of getting Ws.”
Karl-Anthony Towns on his matchup with Joel Embiid tomorrow:— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) October 29, 2019
“I know everyone wants to hype it up, that’s what sells papers, but I ain’t in the business of making y’all money. I’m in the business of getting Ws.” pic.twitter.com/PkQ16fGOUK
Also a liar!
What led to this fight?
There’s very little the audience saw before hands started flying. Towns and Embiid had played a physical half of basketball, but nothing made it apparent that this was coming. On the play prior to the fight, Embiid double-teamed Towns and forced him to turn the ball over.
Fight itself came after this hard double by Embiid. He went for the turnover and got it, but the aggressiveness certainly could have irked Towns. pic.twitter.com/3bHL4Lthii— Samuel H. Quinn (@SamQuinnCBS) October 31, 2019
Then the fight began.
What happened in the fight?
The fight had five stages that lasted for about 20 seconds total.
First, Towns tried to throw the punch:
It didn’t connect.
Then Simmons joined in:
Then Embiid’s finger went towards Towns’ eye:
Then Simmons held Towns in a chokehold:
And finally, Embiid celebrated with Scott:
After the play, both Embiid and Towns were ejected, while officials determined Simmons was a peacemaker.
So what did players say after the game?
After the game, Embiid said Mike Scott’s signature line, “I ain’t no b—.” Then continued, “It was not a lot of talking. It kind of happened out of nowhere ... That’s what I’m good at. I like to get in people’s minds.”
Joel Embiid's post-game (1/2)— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) October 31, 2019
— I like to get into people's mind, I like to [occupy] real estate."
— "I aint no bitch."
— "Didn't connect, and I don't know, maybe it would've turned into something different if it would've actually connected. We move on."
— "We have our backs.” pic.twitter.com/LSCUZoNvzu
Scott said he was hyped after the game. “I thought it was fun,” he said.
What happened online?
This is Embiid we’re talking about. We all knew this beef wasn’t dying on the court.
He took the first internet swing, posting an Instagram picture with the caption, “Great team win!!! I was raised around lions and a cat pulled on me tonight lmao @jimmybutler I missed being part of the 3rd stringers... I got his mom giving middle fingers. That’s some SERIOUS REAL ESTATE #FightNight #IAintNoB—”
Butler famously took to a team full of third stringers and defeated the starters at his first Timberwolves practice last season after an initial holdout.
Then Towns posted his own Instagram mocking Embiid. It was captioned, “I aIN’t nO B—RaiSeD ARoUnD LiOnS #B—Talk”
Embiid got the last words in on a comment on Towns’ picture. “Imagine talking after a 20 pts loss,” he said. “You hate to see it lmao. Go ahead using that pic of me caring about losing in the second round OF THE PLAYOFFS. Oh wait you’ve never been there. You don’t know what is like. No (cap) boy finally won three games and he’s been a p— your whole life. That’s why you were treated like a b— by you know who. I ain’t gonna put your business out by I got the facts about you. Don’t get it twIsted I OWN YOU”
The NBA has to make a decision on how it’s going to discipline those involved.
Embiid doesn’t think he deserves a suspension. “I didn’t throw any punches,” he said. “I tried to be as cool as I could in that situation. I shouldn’t get suspended, but they have a history of over-ruling anything that comes to me. So hopefully they will rule in the right way, but I don’t expect it.”
But suspensions are definitely coming for him and for Towns. The question is how many games are fair for either?
Then there’s Simmons. He wasn’t ejected for his involvement in the fight because referees ruled he was a “peacemaker.” But the Wolves are disputing that, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Wojnarowski also reported “The NBA plans to review tape and interview participants and witnesses beginning Thursday.”
While a Wolves-Sixers playoff series could only come if both teams were to reach the Finals, there’s still one more regular-season game to be played in Minnesota. Mark your calendars for March 24.