The hidden side of politics

Embiid: Sixers, in 2-0 hole, ‘are going to win this’

Reported by ESPN:

NEW YORK — After the Philadelphia 76ers let a precious road playoff victory slip through their fingers in the most dramatic of fashions in Game 2 of their first-round series against the New York Knicks, losing 104-101 on Monday night, 76ers superstar center Joel Embiid declared Philadelphia is going to go on to win the series.

“We’re good,” Embiid said, sitting inside Madison Square Garden’s visitors locker room. “We’re going to win this series.

“We are going to win this. We know what we got to fix. We did a better job today, so we are going to fix it.

“We are the better team. We are going to keep fighting.”

For a few minutes, it felt like the 76ers had gutted out what would have been an incredibly important, and impressive, victory to even this series at a game apiece, after taking a five-point lead with 47.3 seconds to go when Kyle Lowry split a pair of free throws.

But then, in a 14.3-second span, Jalen Brunson had a 3-pointer bounce in, Tyrese Maxey turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds pass and Donte DiVincenzo missed a 3-pointer before an Isaiah Hartenstein offensive rebound gave him a second chance — one that he wouldn’t miss, and wound up becoming the game-winning shot.

While Maxey would go on to miss a potential go-ahead layup and Embiid a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer, Philadelphia had about 14 different complaints over how those 14.3 seconds played out.

For starters, 76ers coach Nick Nurse and several players, including Embiid and veteran Nicolas Batum, said Philadelphia had been calling timeout, and that it wasn’t granted, on the inbounds.

“Well, the first thing is obviously they score,” Nurse said. “We take a look at getting it in quick. We don’t get it in quick. I call timeout. Referee looked right at me. Ignored me. Went into Tyrese, I called timeout again. Then the melee started.

“I guess I gotta run out onto the floor or do something to make sure and get his attention, but I needed a timeout there to advance it. Would’ve been good.

“But, couldn’t get it.”

The 76ers also were frustrated that a foul wasn’t called on Brunson for grabbing a handful of Maxey’s jersey before the ball was inbounded.

“Everybody was trying to call a timeout on the floor,” Embiid said. “Me included. Coach on the sideline. But they didn’t give it to us.

“But, forget about the timeout. There’s a bunch of fouls. That’s f—ing unacceptable.”

Not surprisingly, the Knicks had a different view of things.

“I mean, we don’t give up,” Hartenstein said.

“We’re down two, got to be as physical as we can be, try to get the steal,” said Josh Hart, who made four 3-pointers for a second straight game after not doing so all regular season. “And that’s what we did.”

Embiid then was asked whether he needed to say anything to Maxey, who had been questionable to play with an illness before finishing with a game-high 35 points — 15 of which came in the fourth quarter.

“No,” Embiid said. “He did his job. That’s on the league. That’s on the NBA. That’s on the frigging referees. I hate to put the game on them. But I am sure the 2-minute report is going to come out and we are going to see what happened.

“But like I said, that’s unacceptable. That’s not on him. That’s not on any of us. We fought for 47 minutes and whatever 20 seconds. For that to happen … that’s not OK.”

A 76ers spokesperson told ESPN that the team is going to file a complaint with the league over the officiating across the first two games of the series, as well as the fact that the Knicks, for both Games 1 and 2, have put statistics about the referees working each of the games into their game notes.

It is unclear whether that violates any league rules, though it certainly is unusual.

This is not the first time a team led by Daryl Morey, Philadelphia’s president of basketball operations, has disputed calls in the playoffs. When he was with the Houston Rockets in 2018, the team “audited” its loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, claiming there were dozens of missed and non-calls in the game.

Of course, Houston lost that game to Golden State after missing an NBA-playoff record 27 consecutive 3-pointers.

Ultimately, however, no complaint will change the outcome, nor the fact that the 76ers headed back to Philadelphia on Monday night trailing 2-0 in this best-of-seven affair while feeling they easily could have won both of the opening two games of the series.

And amid their frustration over the collapse and how it played out, they struck a defiant tone across the board that they will find a way to turn this series around.

“Hey listen, again, played really well,” Nurse said. “Did a lot of great things. Played better in a bunch of areas tonight. Obviously difficult when it’s so close and you kinda give it away at the end.

“It’s obviously difficult in these circumstances, right? Makes the series a little longer.”

“I am not frustrated,” Embiid said, in his final answer of his media session. “I am actually good.

“We are going to win this.”