The “PJ Sucks” chants were deafening at Wells Fargo Center in the fourth quarter after double technical fouls were assessed with 10:16 left. Miami Heat veteran PJ Tucker had just elbowed Matisse Thybulle in the back and then a brief tussle ensued as tensions elevated in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Benches didn’t clear, but all 10 players on the court tangled horns. Tucker was jawing throughout Game 3 and picked up three personal fouls. He was complaining incessantly to the refs and begging for calls, shouting the words “what did I do?” at one point.
“He does what he does. We don’t have soft guys on this team. We don’t back down,” veteran wing Danny Green said of Tucker after Game 3. “We just have to play smart. We’re not going to get into the tussling match and the double technicals, just play smart.
“Don’t take any cheap stuff happening, and don’t give any cheap stuff, just play basketball but at the same time be physical. Be just as physical as they are. We’re not going to back down. We’re going to check people and get into bodies and do what we can. We’re going to let them know we’re here, too, we’re here to win.”
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James Harden Doesn’t Take the Tucker Bait
Meanwhile, James Harden was teammates with Tucker in Houston and knows him better than anyone on the Sixers’ roster. Tucker has been the primary defender on Harden early in the Sixers-Heat series, something he excelled at in Game 1 but foul trouble interrupted that plan, with Victor Oladipo taking Harden in Game 2.
When asked about how it felt to be on the other side of Tucker’s aggression, Harden took the high road: “I’m on the other side. It is what it is.”
Harden went for 17 points on Friday night while going on the attack early in the first half. He was aggressive on the offensive end until a fourth foul forced him into a more passive role. But Harden made his presence felt as an organizer and communicator, the maestro of everything Doc Rivers wanted to do.
“That’s what I’m here for,” Harden said. “I’ve always been the communicator, the organizer, trying to get guys in right positions I think more now, more than ever. But when you got guys that want to win and compete, it makes my job a lot easier.”
Green on Tucker: ‘It’s Funny and It’s Fun to See’
Danny Green wasn’t trying to give the Heat any bulletin board material with his comments on Tucker. He was actually complimenting the Heat for reminding everyone what playoff basketball is all about. Green wants the Sixers to match that intensity as the Eastern Conference semifinals drags on.
“That’s the type of basketball you want to see, that’s the type of basketball you want to play,” Green said after Game 3. “It’s the playoffs, guys jawing at each other a little bit, and it’s funny and it’s fun to see, and it’s a part of the game that you live for.”