Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers got the better of Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night. Joel Embiid scored 34 points as the 76ers earned an important 110-102 victory on the road against arch Eastern Conference rivals, the Brooklyn Nets.
Kevin Durant, who missed the Nets' last three games because he had entered the NBA's health and safety protocols, scored 33 points on 13-of-24 shooting in his return for Brooklyn.
The game did not finish without incident though. After Joel Embiid completed a putback layup off a missed Tobias Harris opportunity, the 76ers took a decisive eight-point lead (110-102) with 15.3 seconds left in the game.
However, Kevin Durant took offense to Embiid's excessive posturing after he finished the play. Durant got right into Joel Embiid's face as the Philadelphia 76ers center made his way to the charity stripe to complete the three-point play. Both players exchanged words and were hit with double technicals in the process.
Although Joel Embiid missed the ensuing free throw, the Brooklyn Nets could not score thereafter, giving the Philadelphia 76ers the win. When the final buzzer sounded, Joel Embiid asked the Brooklyn Nets to "go home" in the same way that Kevin Durant did when the two teams last met on December 16, 2021.
Commenting on the episode with Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant told reporters after the game that it came from a place of mutual respect. Durant said:
"If you've been watching Joel and I play against each other it's been like that every game, even All-Star game. We just respect each other so much that natural competitive fire comes out. It's the name of the game. Letting 'em know we coming with the same energy. I liked the energy that they played with tonight. Level of competition is only going to make you better."
Kevin Durant denies Joel Embiid saying anything that crossed the line
Kevin Durant also made it clear that Joel Embiid did not say anything that was even remotely offensive. Durant remarked:
"Naah. Hell no. He didn't really say nothing. I think I was just turnt up... No matter what we down - 8, 10 - they got the game in control. I'm still letting them know that we're still here. So no, he didn't say nothing that crossed the line. We all respect each other out there. We respect this team. I respect all the players on this team and vice versa. That's how we play."
When asked whether the episode with Joel Embiid towards the end of the game had anything to do with the last meeting between the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers when Kevin Durant was waving the 76ers off the floor, Durant replied in the affirmative. Durant said with a smile on his face:
"Yeah, I'm sure, I'm sure, they didn't like that. But I'm glad that can bring the best out of my opponent and they can come out here and play extremely hard. Like I said, it's only going to make me better as a player and us better as a team. Yeah, of course, they felt the way about that. I told them I'm going to keep the same energy regardless - win or lose - I'm still going to be me.