PHILADELPHIA, PA – Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns got into a brawl that overshadowed a rout on the court.
Embiid scored 19 points before he was ejected for fighting with Towns, and the Philadelphia 76ers cruised to a 117-95 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night for their fourth straight win to begin the season.
The Sixers were leading 75-55 midway through the third quarter when Embiid and Towns went at it. The two big men have a history of talking trash to each other. After they got tangled under the basket, Embiid shoved Towns, who answered with a punch that missed as both men fell to the floor. Ben Simmons jumped in and forcefully held Towns down as other players and coaches ran onto the court to separate everyone.
"I didn't throw any punches, so I shouldn't get suspended," Embiid said.
Embiid and Towns were tossed after a video review.
"We deemed the altercation a fight. Therefore, by rule, they're both ejected," said Mark Ayotte, the officials' crew chief. "I just saw them each lock arms. And that escalated to the fight."
Embiid shadowboxed to the crowd's delight on his way back to the locker room. Fans responded with "MVP!" chants.
"I was built for this city," Embiid said. "The love they have for me, I can't thank them enough. I appreciate all the love. That reaction was probably the loudest I ever heard them. That's what the city of Philadelphia is all about. You gotta come in here, you gotta fight, you gotta play hard, you gotta be gritty, you gotta be a Broad Street Bully. We're gonna keep on fighting and try to accomplish the goal we have set for us."
Towns downplayed the fight.
"It's a competitive game. As a team, we need to play better with our system. We didn't execute our game plan," he said. "I'm disappointed in the (loss). I don't think we played our game. We were playing a different type of basketball. It wasn't what got us to 3-0. We can learn a lot from this game."
Embiid said the fight "happened out of nowhere," but added: "I like to get in people's mind."
Sixers coach Brett Brown said he's not concerned that Embiid will receive a suspension.
"I don't see punches being thrown (by Embiid) and I don't believe he was the instigator," Brown said.
Both teams entered 3-0. The Spurs, at 3-0, are the only other unbeaten team in the NBA.
Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points, Towns had 13 points and former Sixer Robert Covington had seven for the Timberwolves.
Tobias Harris scored 18 points, Furkan Korkmaz had 17 off the bench and Simmons added 16 for Philadelphia. Al Horford grabbed 16 rebounds to go with 12 points.
Minnesota led 11-9 midway through the first quarter before Harris hit a 3-pointer. Harris followed with a driving layup and Philadelphia led the rest of the way.
Embiid punctuated a dominant first half with a 3 to put the Sixers up 63-42 going into the break.
"It's competitive, we knew it was going to be that way," Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said.
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The Sixers haven't been 4-0 since Allen Iverson led them to the NBA Finals in the 2001-02 season.
New Phillies manager Joe Girardi sat courtside in the first half. ... Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders rang the bell and teammates Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery and several other players watched from a suite.
Timberwolves: Covington got some applause in pregame introductions. He was traded along with forward Dario Saric to Minnesota last year for Jimmy Butler. ... Towns shot 3 of 5 from 3-point range. ... Jeff Teague scored 15 points.
76ers: Matisse Thybulle had three of his four steals in the first half and is the fifth rookie over the past 25 years with multiple steals in each of his first four games. ... G Trey Burke wasn't available because of illness. ... Embiid only played 20 minutes and still led the team in scoring. ... James Ennis had 11 rebounds in 18 minutes.
Timberwolves: Visit Washington on Saturday
76ers: Open a four-game trip at Portland on Saturday.