The 76ers’ Joel Embiid really put the finishing touches on a victory when he gave the middle finger to the Hawks’ Kevin Huerter on Monday.
Embiid brought the ball up the court with less than 30 seconds remaining in a 129-112 victory in Philadelphia. As he crossed midcourt, Huerter raced from behind and stole the ball, prompting Embiid to make the obscene gesture that was caught by TV cameras.
Following the game, Huerter said he didn’t see the gesture but insisted he was going to keep playing until the final buzzer.
“There was 24 seconds left in the game, and I was playing,” Huerter told ESPN. “He brought the ball up court. He was pumping up crowd before that, doing all the stuff he usually does, and he wasn’t looking. So I went up and took the ball and got another possession. If he did (make the middle-finger gesture), I don’t think that warrants that, but it is what it is.”
After the steal, Huerter passed the ball to Cam Reddish, who missed a 3-pointer as time expired.
Embiid admitted and apologized for the gesture in an on-court interview immediately after the game. He later explained what prompted his action.
“There’s always this thing about you shouldn’t shoot the ball if you’re up 20, something like that,” Embiid told reporters. “I feel like it should go both ways, too. I mean, I’m running the clock down and I feel like the game is over, that’s why I’m doing it.
“But to me, if the other team is going to keep playing defense and they’re going to keep shooting the ball at the other end, I feel like we should just be like, ‘Well, be better next time,’ and just go out and score. I thought about it when I had the ball again, but I was like ‘Eh, I’m going to stay cool.’”
Embiid, who scored a career-high 49 points, could be fined by the NBA for the gesture.
The Hawks play the 76ers for the final time this season March 21 in Philadelphia.
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