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In the current 3-and-D era that dominates the NBA landscape, there are only a handful of true centers in the league.
Two of them play in the same division and fortunately for those who follow the NBA, they don’t like each other much.
Hassan Whiteside of Miami and Joel Embiid of Philadelphia renewed acquaintances on Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena and while Whiteside outplayed Embiid in leading the Heat to a 108-99 victory, the subplot of the two big men squaring off — and their reactions afterward — were even more interesting.
It was set up by, of all things, a clash in the preseason back in October. In that game, Embiid gestured to the Heat bench to take Whiteside out of the game, claiming Whiteside couldn’t guard him. The respective reactions on social media went viral.
But back to Thursday night. First, this video clip, with Shaquille O’Neal’s commentary stealing the show:
Hassan Whiteside really put his nuts in Embiid's face. Shaq's commentary is classic. pic.twitter.com/lka0nrvz3m
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) March 9, 2018
Whiteside posted 26 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots for Miami. Embiid shot just 5-of-18, finishing with 17 points and seven boards.
In the third quarter, the two big men had a dustup when they ran down the floor.
“He tried to hit me in the back, which is kind of dirty because of the fact that I’ve had back problems,” Embiid told reporters postgame.
“We’re going to see about that. I won’t forget about that.”
Embiid was not not happy with being whistled for his fourth foul at the 9:11 mark of the third quarter, sending him to the bench for the remainder of the quarter.
“That fourth foul, I don’t remember touching him,” Embiid said. “Even after the replay, I don’t know what they were looking at…. I didn’t think I touched [Whiteside]. But then they called a technical foul on him because, obviously, he’s the one that made a dirty play.
“He hits really soft, so I didn’t feel anything. But just the action of him trying to like do that I think is pretty messed up.”
Whiteside was indeed hit with a technical foul on the play. Replays show he appeared to hit himself in the face and then fall backward.
When they both were in the fray in the fourth quarter, Whiteside dominated his counterpart, scoring seven points (making both shots from the field and 4 of 6 from the free-throw line), adding two boards and a block in seven minutes. Conversely, Embiid made two of seven shots in nine minutes.
Whiteside was asked if gets more motivated to go against Embiid. He thought for several seconds, paused, then presented a succinct answer — “I look forward to this.”
Embiid refused to give any credit to his counterpart for outplaying him.
“I took too many jump shots, missed a lot of them,” he said.
Unfortunately, the game represented the final matchup of the season between Whiteside and Embiid.
Unless, of course, the Heat and the 76ers were to meet in the playoffs.
If that comes to fruition, get your popcorn ready, prop up your feet and prepare to be entertained.