Philadelphia 76ers MVP candidate Joel Embiid and Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse engaged in an animated discussion in the closing seconds of the 76ers Game 2 win on Monday night. The issue was over the way Embiid was being officiated.
“He’s a great coach,” Embiid said. “Obviously, he’s been able to accomplish [a lot] and always been a big fan. But, I told him, respectfully, I told him to stop b—-ing about calls.”
Embiid was dominant scoring 31 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He was 12-14 from the line, making more trips than the entire Raptors team.
Nurse made a point about the way Embiid was officiated after Game 1, and now that his Raptors are down 0-2 with another Embiid free throw line parade, this will continue to be an area of focus throughout the series.
“At least there wasn’t as many elbows thrown to the face tonight that we had to endure,” Nurse said, “He was saying to me that, ‘I’m going to keep making all the free throws if you keep fouling. And I said, ‘Well, you might have to.’ But a good player, man. I got a lot of respect for him. He’s certainly playing great here. There’s nothing there but us trying to compete against him and him trying to compete against us.”
Officiating dominant big men has long been a challenge for NBA officials. Embiid is similar to Shaquille O’Neal in that regard. A physical specimen who is so much bigger than his opponents that it’s difficult to determine what is an offensive or defensive foul.
The Raptors problem is they are limited in personnel to guard Embiid. Precious Achiuwa and Khem Birch are too small. With potential Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes injured, the Raptors have to double- and triple-team Embiid often. That leads to fouls.
“If you’re going to triple-team somebody all game, they are bound to get to the free throw line, or if you’re going to push them off and try to hold them and and all that stuff, they’re bound and get to the free throw line,” Embiid said. “So I feel like every foul was legit and probably should have been more, honestly.”
There is truth there. But Embiid delivers a lot of punishment when he’s on offense. His elbows, shoulders, and forearms have knocked more than a few Raptors’ players down through two games. He has to be given the opportunity to make basketball moves, but the Raptors’ defenders must also be allowed to defend.
More than anything, players and coaches would like consistency in officiating. If it’s a foul on on end it should be the same on the other, regardless of player. But officials are human and are prone to mistakes, etc.
All that being said, NBA officials are the best basketball officials in the world. They get it right the majority of the time. It’s just that sometimes the right call is not always beneficial for your team in the heat of competition. But that’s the breaks.