If you’re having déjà vu, you’re not alone. The Sixers are embroiled in another first-round series with an opponent that is aggressively trapping Joel Embiid and complaining to the officials.
After Game 1, Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn voiced his displeasure with the officiating after his team lost, 121-101. (Most of the time you don’t lose games by 20 because of officiating, but we digress.)
You’ll recall it was a year ago that Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, knowing his team had no shot at stopping Embiid, used a similar tactic.
After a Game 2 win over Brooklyn, the parallels weren’t lost on Embiid, who had 20 points, 19 rebounds, seven assists, and three blocks in the Sixers’ 96-84 victory Monday.
“I saw after the game last time, they kind of took the Nick Nurse route of begging for free throws and calling out the referees,” Embiid said. “They did come out and they got a lot of calls, which I guess is good for them. I think we didn’t play our best basketball, but what happened in the second half is we just figured out what worked and we just kept doing it over and over and over. They stuck to their game plan, they didn’t make any adjustments, and we just figured it out and kept playing together.”
But Embiid wasn’t done there.
He took the opportunity to air his grievances with the officiating — but not for himself. Through two games, James Harden has struggled from inside the arc and hasn’t taken a single free throw. The same James Harden that’s sixth all-time with 7,357 free throws made.
And it’s not for lack of trying. Harden has frequently gotten to the rim and come up empty with no whistle. Embiid would like to see Harden’s aggressiveness in attacking the rim rewarded.
“I thought James, bad shooting night, but he did a good job of managing, and just keep going,” Embiid said. “He was aggressive and it’s kind of crazy that he’s not getting any free throws. I think he’s been getting fouled a lot. And I don’t think he’s been to the free throw line at all during these two games, which is kind of insane to think about. So hopefully, they change that.”
It’s funny (though I don’t think Sixers fans are laughing) that Harden got one of the greatest whistles in NBA history for nearly decade and that run effectively ended once he got to Philly. They really do hate The Process.
And folks, Embiid wasn’t done there. He even took a light-hearted jab at the official scorers.
“So I had … three blocks. Only three blocks?” Embiid said incredulously. “I probably need the Memphis scorekeeper. ... I thought I had more. But that’s the level that I’ve got to get to. I’m going to do it every game.”
MVP work, on and off the court.
The Sixers will head to Brooklyn for Game 3 and a chance to take a 3-0 series lead Thursday night.