PHILADELPHIA — In the closing seconds of the Philadelphia 76ers’ 112-97 Game 2 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night, Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid and Raptors coach Nick Nurse were engaged in an animated back-and-forth. The exchange wasn’t necessarily heated, but it didn’t appear to be friendly, either.
Obviously, the exchange piqued the interest of fans and media members alike, and Embiid was asked about it after the game.
“He’s a great coach,” Embiid said of Nurse. “Obviously, what he’s been able to accomplish, and [I’ve] always been a big fan. But, I told him, respectfully, I told him to stop bitching about calls, because I saw what he said last game.”
Embiid was referring to comments Nurse made about the way Philadelphia’s 131-111 Game 1 win was officiated. Basically, Nurse felt that Embiid was being granted too many calls while not being called for fouls of his own.
“I don’t care if you’re 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, if you beat him to the spot and he runs you over, it’s a foul,” Nurse said of Embiid on Saturday night. “I thought he threw three or four elbows to the face. He got called for one. We’re going to stand in there. … If we’re legal defensively, then we gotta have them call it or we don’t have a chance. Period. Nobody can guard that guy if they’re just gonna let him run you over time and time again. We’re gonna stand in there and we’ll see.”
Nurse’s words seemed to have little to no impact in Game 2 as Embiid shot 14 free throws, including 12 in the first quarter alone — matching Toronto’s total for the entire game. Embiid has attempted 25 free throws through the first two games of the series. The Raptors just don’t have the size or strength in the frontcourt to compete with him, so they’re forced to foul. Nurse may not like it, but that’s the simple reality of the situation.
“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 all that stuff, they’re bound to get to the free throw line,” Embiid said after Game 2. “So I feel like every foul was legit and probably [there] should have been more, honestly.”
Every coach works the referees, but Nurse has taken it to another level in the series with the Sixers. In addition to his podium comments, he has seemingly spent an exorbitant amount of time complaining to the refs during the games themselves. It hasn’t worked thus far, as Toronto has been outscored by 35 points over the first two games of the series. Moving forward, Nurse might want to worry a little bit more about his own team and a little bit less about the refs.