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Bucks’ Eric Bledsoe ejected for throwing ball back at Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid, Eric Bledsoe

So much for a meaningful late-season preview of a potential Eastern Conference Finals matchup. Blame Joel Embiid and Eric Bledsoe.

Less than three minutes into Thursday’s highly-anticipated game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, Bledsoe and Embiid got into it while jostling for rebounding positioning on a made three-point by Giannis Antetokounmpo. After the ball splashed through the net, Embiid grabbed it and lightly tossed the ball at Bledsoe, who immediately threw it back at him with a fastball.

Bledsoe was eventually ejected for his role in the ensuing fracas, while Embiid and Philadelphia teammate Mike Scott, who threw the ball at Bledsoe a second time, were merely assessed with technical fouls.

Milwaukee’s veteran point guard is enjoying one of the finest seasons of his career in 2018-19, serving as a crucial factor in the Bucks’ dominance on both sides of the ball. Bledsoe is averaging 16.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game, shooting an easy career-high 58 percent on two-pointers. Long a middling shooter, he’s struggled from beyond the arc, connecting on 32.5 percent of his attempts.

Thursday’s tilt wasn’t quite going to be an accurate representation of what it will look like should these teams meet in the postseason even before Bledsoe was ejected. Star Sixers wing Jimmy Butler is missing the game with back tightness, while Bucks starting guard Malcolm Brogdon is still recovering from a partial tear of his plantar fascia, an injury from which he might be able to recover for the second round
– the absolute earliest Milwaukee and Philadelphia could meet in the playoffs.