PHILADELPHIA – Somehow, the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Brooklyn Nets in Game 2 of their first-round series. It was an ugly display of basketball for almost every Sixers player but they found a way to win. And Joel Embiid had some choice words for Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn after a chippy, physical game.
Vaughn made a comment about the freedom from the referees Embiid got in the Sixers’ Game 1 victory. When asked about the physicality of the game — Royce O’Neale and the Nets defense spent all its energy double-teaming Embiid on almost every possession — Embiid clapped back on what he heard previously.
“I saw after the game last time, they kinda took the Nick Nurse route of begging for free throws and calling out the referees,” Joel Embiid said. “Then they 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 was we just figured out what worked and we just kept doing it over and over and over.”
The Toronto Raptors head coach — at least he currently is for now — caught a stray for his complaints about officiating when the Raptors faced Embiid and the Sixers in the first round of last postseason. The Nets have played defense similar to how the Raptors play Embiid: throw a bunch of defenders at him and make the rest of the team work for its buckets. With Tyrese Maxey going off, the strategy didn’t work. It opened up one-on-once space for Embiid late in the game that he took advantage of.
The physicality of the NBA playoffs is nothing new to Embiid and the Sixers. But with the big fella being much better equipped for it, Philly is riding high. “This is the playoffs. I expect everyone to care about every single possession. If you don’t, you should not be playing,” Embiid said.