nba playoffs

Sixers' Joel Embiid Wants Game 7 Vs. Hawks ‘Called Both Ways'

Embiid wants Game 7 'called both ways' after Game 6 frustrations originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Following the Sixers’ Game 1 loss to the Hawks, head coach Doc Rivers let reporters know he was not pleased with how Trae Young was officiated. 

After the Sixers’ Game 6 victory Friday night in Atlanta, it was Joel Embiid’s turn.

Embiid, who scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, had a fourth-quarter confrontation with John Collins. It began when Embiid leaned into Collins as he went up for a shot. He was called for an offensive foul and received a shove from the Hawks power forward. A crowd of players soon formed along the baseline, Embiid and Collins were each assessed technicals, and Rivers’ challenge of the offensive foul was unsuccessful.

“Well, I got a tech for it, and I didn’t think it was an offensive foul,” Embiid said. “I was just trying to stay calm and have my hands up. Someone was pushing me from the back and I don’t understand why I got a tech, but I guess it is what it is. I was hacked all night and I don’t think I got to the free throw line until I got to the fourth quarter. So it was questionable. But we got the win. That’s all that matters.” 

Embiid’s lack of free throws was uncharacteristic. He was 3 for 4 from the foul line and didn’t have any attempts until 7:07 remained in the game. Over the first five games of the series, he’d taken 13.6 free throws per game. During the regular season, he averaged a league-best 10.7. 

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Though he didn’t use Young’s name, Embiid strongly insinuated that the crafty 22-year-old has drawn a favorable whistle this series. Young posted 34 points and 12 assists Friday but was only 3 for 5 on free throws. 

“I told them, they had to call it both ways,” Embiid said. “We had a bunch of guys, whether it’s Ben (Simmons) or Tobias (Harris), in foul trouble. I just felt like it wasn’t called both ways, especially because of the minimal contact that they get, their point guard. 

“When it comes to us, we don’t get the same thing. I just want it called both ways. If we’re going to call something like nothing on their point guard, it should be the same way and they (should) call the same thing (for) me if I get touched.”

Seth Curry also thought there was a disparity in how the teams were officiated. 

“They’re not explaining nothing,” Curry said. “I would love an explanation, try to get the same calls on both ends. But they’re not explaining nothing. Just trying to play through contact as much as possible. Sometimes you’ve got to play through a lot of adversity to get a win, and that’s what we did as a team tonight.”

In a 3-2 hole they’d mostly dug for themselves by wasting large leads in Games 4 and 5, the Sixers allowed the Hawks to go up 20-8. Embiid’s jumpers were off, Simmons and Harris’ foul trouble meant they headed to the bench earlier than planned, and the general state of affairs was ominous for the Sixers.

The turnaround from that point was a collective effort, not a one-man show of dominance from Embiid as it’s sometimes been this year.

“We got in foul trouble and they were making shots,” Embiid said. “And I feel like tonight, I was rushed a little bit … when I got to my spots and missing shots. So I’ve just got to keep my confidence high and just do what I do best. As a team at the beginning of the game, I felt like we didn’t move the ball enough. And then defensively, we weren’t getting stops.

“So if you’re not getting stops, you can’t run, or you can’t get transition, easy baskets. But once we started getting stops, especially at the beginning of the second half, it started getting easier for us.”

Sunday night’s Game 7 will be a moment Embiid has pushed to reach since the heartbreak of Kawhi Leonard’s quadruple-bounce, buzzer-beating, series-ender two years ago in Toronto at the same stage.

“I’m excited,” he said. “This time around, it’s at home. Even back then, I believe if we had home court, it would’ve been easier to win. But that’s why we worked so hard in the regular season, to get that home-court advantage. Playing in front of our fans, I know we blew that lead last game … that’s something we should’ve never done. But tonight we just kept telling each other, ’48 minutes. We’ve got to be focused for 48 minutes.’ So that’s what we have to do, and we’ll be fine.”

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