It would have been a crime for the Sixers to lose after this bit of absolute nonsense:

Joel Embiid catches Jalen Brunson in the face and then gets some arm on the follow through. It looks a lot worse in the first clip, but the second clip makes it look like a mistimed swipe at the ball. Hard foul, but a common foul. Play on.

The thing that bothers me the most is that Brunson has a step on Embiid, and does the aggravating thing where he throws his body into him to initiate contact before going up with the ball. Is it crafty? Of course it is. You have to give the guy credit because he works the margins and works the refs, using these jerky movements to off-balance defenders and get whistles in return. It’s not the entirety of his game, and he’s not the only one who does it, but my god does it make you want to pull your hair out.

What’s funny, or perhaps pathetic, is that the the NBA made it a point of emphasis several years ago to cut down on plays like this:

That’s Brunson moving sideways and laying a shoulder into Embiid. In 2021, a change that we colloquially called the “Trae Young rule” was described thusly by the league:

“in the 2021-22 NBA season, there will be an interpretive change in the officiating of overt, abrupt or abnormal non-basketball moves by offensive players with the ball in an effort to draw fouls”

That’s what this is. It’s overt, abrupt, and not a basketball move. Yes, shoulder-to-shoulder contact is part of the game, but he’s clearly moving away from the rim and veering into the defender to create contact. Brunson is the initiator and he’s doing the same shit that Trae Young did, which is WHY THEY MADE IT AN EMPHASIS TO GET RID OF THESE PLAYS IN THE FIRST PLACE.

If you’ve watched even five seconds of the NBA this year, you know this continues to plague the league. They initially did a good job when this rule change went into effect, but the foul grifters continue to grift. And don’t get me wrong, grifting is a skill in and of itself, so we’d be hypocritical to kill Brunson when witnessing what Embiid does night-in and night-out. That said, in my mind, the difference is that Embiid gets get more of his whistles while making legitimate shooting motions, be it a low block rip through or mid-range face up, when bigs are putting their hands into poor positions. He’s not a lane driver who stops, steers, and moves himself into the path of defenders who are trailing in the pick and roll or moving parallel to the basket.

Bottom line, we need more guys playing basketball instead of looking for fouls. Didn’t the NBA fix this three years ago? Apparently not. Look at this point of emphasis video clip from 2021 and tell me Brunson is not doing the same exact shit: