Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid wanted to clear the air about the uneven officiating after Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The 7-footer felt like the refs had given every close or questionable call to the Atlanta Hawks in that one and the two previous playoff games.
Embiid even received a $35,000 fine for “escalating” an altercation. Enough was enough. The four-time All-Star center was under attack on every possession, whether out on the perimeter or underneath the basket. The whistles remained silent when the Sixers had the basketball, only to blow loudly every time Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks initiated minimal contact at the other end.
“They can fine me all they want,” Embiid told reporters. “Whether it’s the officiating tonight, you got guys fouling us, putting their hands up, me going for a dunk, they don’t call anything. The last three games, it’s been the same way, over and over. And then I get fined last game for having my arms up while I’m getting pushed in the friggin’ back — and I get fined just because, I guess, I don’t know why.”
Embiid was referring to a dust-up in Game 6 between himself and John Collins. It sure looked the Hawks were the aggressors in that interesting incident. Collins gave Embiid a shove on the ground while Young ran over and pushed the Sixers big man square in the back. Neither one of them was fined or suspended.
“So there’s a lot of stuff that went wrong,” Embiid said. “As a team, we still had to be better. We still had a chance to win, we just made a lot of mistakes. But, like I said, I gave everything I had.”
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Turnovers Doom Sixers in Playoff Loss to Hawks
Blame the refs if you want for the Sixers’ early playoff exit. They were flat-out terrible for the duration of the Eastern Conference semifinals. However, the home team did themselves no favors in a Game 7 marked by bad offense and dumb turnovers. Philadelphia missed a ton of open looks while shooting 42.5% from the field. They also turned the ball over 17 times in the game.
“Listen, this was a muddy, ugly game tonight and it just seemed like they made the right plays,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said. “We had 17 turnovers. If you want to circle one thing, the 17 turnovers … and, we shot what? 75-percent from the free-throw line? They just had too many extra shots at the end of the day for us to win the game.”
Young went a putrid 5-of-23 from the field for 21 points, but it didn’t matter. The Sixers couldn’t contain Kevin Huerter who went off for 27 points, with Danilo Gallinari adding 17 points off the bench.
“I thought our defense hung in there as long as it could, but we couldn’t make shots,” Rivers said. “We’ve been a good offensive team all year and tonight we were not. We weren’t even an average offensive team tonight.”
Sixers Miss Eastern Conference Finals Again
The Sixers went down on a miracle buzzer-beater by Kawhi Leonard two years ago in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. That loss still haunts the locker room. Then the team got swept in the first round of last year’s playoffs, so this was supposed to be their year. Everyone was locked in and focused on a championship. It wasn’t meant to be.
“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I’m a winner. I want to win. I do everything it takes to win. Losing obviously is obviously going to take a toll on me and it does.”
Added Rivers: “Listen, this team actually got swept in the first round and we had a chance to go to the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m not going to make this into a negative year.”