There was 3:31 left in the fourth quarter, the Philadelphia 76ers leading the Wizards 98-89, when Andre Iguodala threw a pass that was stolen by Kirk Hinrich. The ball eventually found its way into John Wall’s hands, who looked up, found JaVale McGee, and hit him with a perfect pass. McGee, as he does so well, took the ball strong to the hole, and dunked it with authority on Elton Brand, who was late in his rotation.
Unfortunately for the Sixers, not only was Brand late rotating, but he was forced to foul, and foul hard — so hard in fact that McGee violently crashed to the ground and immediately grabbed his back in agony. The referee wasted no time whistling Brand for a type two flagrant foul, which meant an automatic ejection from the game. McGee, even as he was still on the ground in pain, managed to taunt the departing Sixer by waving goodbye to him as he left the court.
The flagrant served as a turning point in the game, as the Wizards outscored the Sixers 15-8 after that, and eventually won in overtime 116-114. When asked if that was indeed the turning point, Sixers coach Doug Collins vehemently disagreed:
“Guys, with 8.5 seconds to go, we were shooting two free throws and they [the Wizards] had no timeouts. So we can talk about it [Brand's flagarant foul] all we want, but we were still in a position to win the game, they had no timeouts. At the end of the day, we stil l had a three point lead shooting two free throws and with 8.5 seconds to go.”
Here were Elton Brand’s thoughts on the foul:
Other observations from the Sixers locker room:
I asked Brand if he had ever been in a situation where he had gotten ejected from a key game in a key moment. He laughed and immediately had an answer for me:
“Oh hell yeah, I’ve gotten flagrants, two technicals before and all that, but even still, it feels awkward being escorted out knowing my team still needs me and the game isn’t over with fans pointed and laughing, but hey, the refs had to make that call I suppose.”
I also asked Brand what he was initially trying to do when he ran over to McGee prior to the foul:
“Man I was just trying to get him not to dunk, because he had been all over the rim all night, and he’s a high-flyer, so I just tried to stop him from getting that momentum changer. He’s just so athletic and quick to the rim, so I wanted to make sure he had to hit free throws, because Coach told us before the game that he was only hitting 50% from the line.”
And finally, I asked Brand if he saw McGee wave at him in jest right before he got ejected:
“Oh yeah I saw that, but its cool, you know I know him from L.A., and we work out and played together in the summer and he’s a good kid and he’s becoming a really good player. But hey, I fouled him hard, he hit the ground hard, his team was pumped and coming back, so he’s supposed to make fun of me, so its no hard feelings at all.”
At one point Evan Turner hit four straight free throws to preserve the 106-103 lead for the Sixers with 11.8 seconds left. After Nick Young missed a three, the Wizards were forced to foul Turner again with eight seconds left in regulation. Turner missed both attempts, allowing Washington to stay within a three-pointer of tying the game. John Wall was then fouled while taking that three-pointer; he calmly sank all three, creating an extra session of basketball. After the game, a dejected Turner seemed at a loss for words when asked to explain what happened: