Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

  • It didn’t take long for Celtics guard Marcus Smart and 76ers center Joel Embiid to renew their on-court rivalry.

    It took a touch over one half of basketball in 2022-23 to set it off, actually, as Smart and Embiid wrote the latest chapter of their feud just 19 seconds into the second half of Tuesday’s season-opening showdown at TD Garden.

    Tangled up in a fight for a rebound, a foul blew the play dead, but neither Smart nor Embiid had any interest in stopping. And with the ball in his hands, as well as momentum on his side given the size difference, Embiid went for a thrust and rip that sent Smart down to the floor to the displeasure of a sold out Garden crowd.

    And Smart. And the rest of the Celtics, for that matter.

  • Livid with what he perceived to be a downright dirty attempt at injuring him, Smart responded by grabbing at the seven footer’s ankle as he walked away. Embiid, also a known embellisher, reacted with a fall that would’ve made you think that they replaced the parquet with the slush the Bruins skate on come May and June.

    “I had seen the play, and I thought Embiid was getting away with a lot of unnecessary pushing and shoving,” Celtics star Jaylen Brown, who was the first to rush over when things escalated, said of the incident.

    “Smart took a disliking to the rip of it because his elbow was locked out,” Grant Williams added. “I didn’t think the trip was that bad. He tripped him and Joel fell backwards, so I think that was more of a FIFA-type ordeal.”

  • Cooler heads prevailed for the Celtics, as Al Horford quickly huddled the C’s up to recenter the team, and the Celtics cruised to a nine-point victory by the night’s end for head coach Joe Mazzulla’s first NBA win.

    But speaking after the game, Smart made his feelings on the sequence and Embiid known.

    “I mean, went for a rebound; basketball play. Went for the steal; basketball play. Referee blows his whistle, calls a foul, [and] I stop playing. My arm is still stuck in there, and [Embiid] tries to break it,” Smart said of the dust-up. “And then I’m the only one that gets a tech. I mean, everybody saw it. I don’t have to keep talking about it.”

    But he did, and he let the world know just what he could’ve done to Embiid.

    “If I did that, I’m probably ejected, suspended three games, four games, fines. But the fact that I was the only one that got something out of that is kind of beyond me. Especially defending DPOY, and that’s how he gets treated?” Smart continued. “It’s tough. But, like I said, it’s maturity. I could’ve cracked his head open, but I didn’t. And that’s the maturity we have, you know what I’m saying?

    First of all, love it. The hatred is real, and sports are always better with hatred. Smart is basically saying, “Yeah, I could’ve made him look like Ric Flair blading in any match post-2003, but I didn’t, so I am a hero.” I love it. Give me more of it. Please. I need more of these two.

    Embiid, for what it’s worth, is playing the clueless card.

    “They called a foul, I walked away, and the next thing I know my foot is getting caught up [and] I slipped,” Embiid said after the loss. “Then, the next thing I know Jaylen was on top of me.

    “It’s basketball. Emotions. First game of the season. Rivalry, Boston [vs.] Philly. Lot of intensity. It’s all good.”

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 18: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts after being fouled during the second half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on October 18, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 18: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts after being fouled during the second half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on October 18, 2022 in Boston. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    But for what it’s worth, it doesn’t sound like the Celtics share such a viewpoint. It doesn’t help that this isn’t the first run-in between Smart and Embiid. I mean, everybody remembers the shove in Philadelphia back in 2019.

  • And it doesn’t help that the Celtics felt that Embiid was trying to take liberties leading up to that point, and especially on the incident with Smart.

    “It seemed like he was trying to hurt Smart,” Brown said. “Instincts just came right over.”

    Brown was the first to Smart’s defense, and Brown appeared to issue a warning of some sort to Embiid and the Sixers, and extended that message when talking about it in the postgame.

    “We’re not taking no mess this year,” Brown said.

    The next chapter of Smart vs. Embiid is set for Feb. 8 at TD Garden.

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