Sixers' Joel Embiid Addressed the NBA's Unwritten Rule of Running the Clock Out

Justin Grasso

In every professional sport, there tends to be an unwritten rule or two that every athlete is expected to follow. Of course, the respect factor is never a guarantee. Based on the results of specific games and situations, some players may find themselves in a case where they allow frustration or cockiness to take over, resulting in unwritten rules being broken.

On Monday night, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid found himself in that sort of situation in a matchup against the Atlanta Hawks. The Sixers' big man was on fire, enjoying the night as he dropped a career-high of 49 points.

Considering he was back to his old self, dancing, and showing out for the crowd, the Hawks must've been growing frustrated with the big man's harmless antics. So when Embiid got a handle on the ball after grabbing a rebound, one the Hawks' starting guards decided to turn up the intensity on Embiid, who was just trying to ice the game.

Hawks guard Kevin Huerter witnessed Embiid jog with the ball to the other side of the court and eventually stop while continuing to dribble. At that point, there was under 20 seconds left on the clock as the Sixers had a 17-point lead. Embiid had no intention of attempting to drop over 50 points on Atlanta. In hindsight, though, he might've wished he did after having Huerter pick his pocket during garbage time. 

"There's always this thing about how you shouldn't shoot the ball if you're up 20 or something like that," Embiid stated following the game on Monday. "I feel like it should go both ways too. I'm running the clock down, and I feel like the game is over -- that's why I'm doing it. To me, if the other team is going to keep playing defense and shooting the ball at the other end, I feel like we should be like 'well, be better next time,' and go out and score."

The Sixers' center makes a valid point. At that point in the game, there was no chance the Hawks could've made a comeback. Therefore, they should've allowed Embiid to run the clock out and call it a game. Instead, Huerter broke the unwritten rule, which caused Embiid to get understandably frustrated.

For a moment, Embiid thought about potentially getting back at the Hawks' guard by taking the ball up and scoring, but he decided it was best he "stays cool" and avoids further conflict. In hindsight, he made the right choice but the point still stands. If teams don't want the clear-cut winners to keep scoring in garbage time, respect the unwritten rules on the other end.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_