After another dominant performance in Game 2, Joel Embiid made his way over to the sidelines as time was winding down to have a chat with Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse.
Joel Embiid and Nick Nurse had words for each other at the end of the game. pic.twitter.com/6JihHL5d9A
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 19, 2022
It turns out they were discussing a prevailing theme in the series and a major point of contention for Raptors fans: the officiating.
Both Embiid and Nurse addressed the exchange following the 76ers' 112-97 win on Monday, with each offering a slightly different version of what was said.
“Oh man, he’s a great coach obviously. I got to (respect) what he’s been able to accomplish and I’ve always been a big fan. But I told him, respectfully, to stop b******* about calls, because I saw what he said last game,” Embiid said.
Joel Embiid explains what he told Nick Nurse at the end of Game 2 👀😅 pic.twitter.com/tUToBrJdlx
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 19, 2022
Nick Nurse on his late exchange with Joel Embiid:
“(Embiid) said, ‘I’m gonna keep making all my free throws if you keep fouling me,’ and I said, ‘Well, you might have to.’”
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 19, 2022
Nurse was vocal about the officiating after Game 1, in which Embiid both figuratively and literally ran over the Raptors.
“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 told reporters after the game. “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,” Nurse said. “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.”
It appears Nurse's plea fell on deaf ears, as Embiid made 14 trips to the charity stripe in Game 2 while the 76ers as a team attempted 30 free throws compared to 12 for Toronto. Philadelphia's MVP candidate completed 12 of his 14 attempts and led all scorers with 31 points in the contest.
Drawing fouls is a skill and there are few players better than Embiid at getting to the line, perhaps rivalled only by his teammate, James Harden. And though this likely won’t go over well in Toronto, Embiid has a point: the foul disparity isn’t the primary reason why the Raptors are losing, as they’ve been unable to secure rebounds or find an answer to Philadelphia’s breakout star Tyrese Maxey, who has diced up the Raptors perimeter defense.
Embiid isn’t a popular guy in Toronto, particularly after he accidentally stepped on Raptors rookie sensation Scottie Barnes’ ankle in Game 1. Barnes was ruled out of Game 2 with an ankle injury and spoke to reporters while wearing a walking boot prior to Monday’s contest.
One of the NBA’s best strategists, Nurse is running out of time to stop Embiid and company. Perhaps his time would be better spent not worrying about the officiating — which has been shoddy at times — and instead spend it dialling up another unorthodox scheme that flummoxes offenses, which he’s become known for.
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