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April 22, 2019

What they're saying: The Nets are extremely salty about officiating in Sixers series

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What a difference a week can make. Last Saturday, the Sixers came out flat to start the playoffs and had people wondering whether they would even make it out of the first round. Fast forward to Game 4 in Brooklyn, and you saw a Sixers team fight through adversity to take a commanding 3-1 lead over the Nets. Perhaps they're the team their talent suggests they should be after all.

It has been an eventful round one, with players squawking back and forth at one another, flagrant fouls, clutch shots, and a whole lot more in just four games. The Sixers have been the better team, but they have had to work to prove that, and the Nets will not go down easy with the series on the line in Tuesday's Game 5.

And, as it turns out, their management is prepared to do whatever it takes to give the Nets a fighting chance, even if it comes off as a bit lame. Here's what they're saying about the Sixers after the games in Brooklyn.

The Nets can't stop crying about the officials

We bring up officiating around these parts a lot, but I can't remember a time where I outright blamed the officiating for the Sixers losing. My general beef (when I have one) with NBA referees comes down to inconsistency — you never want to deal with bad calls, but if you're going to call a game tight or loose, apply those principles to both teams.

I think the refs have done a pretty good job of that in this series, with either side getting the benefit of the doubt depending on context. Brooklyn appears to disagree. Let's go through a quick list of things that happened over the weekend.

— Game 4 features a fracas that is started by Jared Dudley when he pushes Joel Embiid after a hard foul on Jarrett Allen. Jimmy Butler rushes to Embiid's aid, and the fight spills into the stands. Embiid is assessed a flagrant foul for what looked like a good, if hard foul upon replay, with Dudley and Butler being ejected. Judge the play for yourself from what I think was the best angle:

Short-term, the most important thing was Brooklyn winning the trade-off in the ejections. After Saturday's game, Dudley essentially admitted that he went out there with the intent to goon it up, so the officials essentially rewarded him for pre-meditating his instigating, which is really supposed to be the exact opposite of how these things are handled.

Long-term, the Sixers are the only losers. The NBA did not rescind the flagrant for Embiid, so he has now picked up two flagrant foul points in three playoff games played. If he reaches four, he will have to serve a one-game suspension in the playoffs. That is something to monitor as the Sixers move forward.

— Sunday afternoon, we learn through the NBA's communications team that Brooklyn GM Sean Marks was fined and suspended for entering the officials' locker room following the Game 4 loss. Through ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, we learn why Marks decided to charge into the room.

I can understand being mad about the foul in Game 2 — Embiid's shot to Allen's head was vicious, and shots to the head in general are an important player safety issue. If Sean Marks actually believes there's a case for the Game 4 foul to be a Flagrant 2, I have no idea what he's watching. Maybe he was unable to see a replay because they never show them at Barclays Center, but if he did and still believes that, I think he might be a candidate for Lasik.

If there was any beef to be had, it would be with the non-call on Tobias Harris in the final minute. The NBA's last two-minute report noted the incorrect no-call on Sunday evening, and it was easy to spot during my film review. However, it also stated that the officials missed a carry by Spencer Dinwiddie in the final two minutes of Game 4, so there are some breaks that went either way.

— Nets minority owner Joe Tsai, who owns 49 percent of the team and can rise to a controlling share with an option in 2021, let his Twitter followers know late Sunday that the ownership group stood behind Marks.

It comes off as a bunch of whiney drivel. The Nets came in and stole Game 1, and everything that has happened since has shown the Sixers are simply better and more talented than they are. Dudley's trash talk backfired in a big way, with Ben Simmons taking over the series over the next three games, and now the organization is looking for any excuse to explain away the fact that they're being beaten up by a bigger and better team.

Do you know what would have helped the Nets in Game 4? Avoiding several boneheaded turnovers in the final minutes of the game, or asking someone aside from their limited, rim-running center to score on the game's most important possession, or Joe Harris being more than a face on a milk carton. Maybe the Nets should worry more about D'Angelo Russell vanishing than speaking to the manager.

Anyway, to the stories and links...

Maybe Jared Dudley was the key to the 76ers' chemistry

Kristian Winfield | SB Nation

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, so a moment of adversity might have been exactly what the Sixers needed to come together.

Philadelphia’s closer was no more, because he came to his workhorse’s defense. Embiid took over after Butler was ejected. He had 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two blocks from that point on. He dominated the game, after Butler dominated Dudley. 

 The 76ers had no choice but to come together in the face of an unlikely enemy. After all, Dudley called Ben Simmons “average in the half-court,” to which Simmons responded, “That’s coming from Jared Dudley. Come on.” The story was no longer Nets vs. Sixers, but beef between a veteran and a young star. 

 The real story is this loaded 76ers team, crystallizing a chemistry that has waffled back and forth all season. [SB Nation]

Saturday was easily the most buddy-buddy we've ever seen Embiid and Butler, so maybe there's something to this.

Joel Embiid's Game 4 was one for the ages

Marcus Hayes |

As we've gone over around these parts, that Embiid game was pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Which is how things are supposed to be. This is what Brown envisioned when the Sixers drafted Embiid third overall in 2014, knowing they would have to wait a season before he would be fully healthy. It’s what Brown clung to the next season, when Embiid remained injured. It’s what Brown banked on the next season, when the knee trouble began. 

 It’s what Brown saw manifested Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn. It’s why he hugged the big guy. They had Processed together for five long years to reach this moment. It was their finest moment. []

Legends are not built on first-round victories, but that's an Embiid performance we will remember for a while, certainly.

Nets refuse to make excuses against Sixers

Brian Lewis | NY Post

I lampooned Nets management up top for their crying, so I think it's important to note that the players and coaches have been great in my experience with them over the last week plus. Kenny Atkinson has been honest about his team's failures, and their young guards have owned their mistakes.

But facing elimination in Tuesday’s first-round Game 5 in Philadelphia, they aren’t going to use inexperience as an alibi. Right now the Nets aren’t focused on planning for next season but extending this one. And that means not managing expectations or making excuses. 

 “We’d like to make that excuse, obviously this is a learning experience. For a lot of us, this is our first time playing big minutes in the playoffs,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “But we were right there [in Game 4]. We feel like we should’ve won. 

 “We weren’t saying this was a learning experience when we won Game 1. So we can’t fall back on that now. We need to try to pull off something incredible.” [NY Post]

The Sixers will be better off having faced this Nets team, who has forced them to work and come together to jump out to a commanding lead. Bigger challenges are ahead.

Tobias Harris focused on Philly, not free agency

Marc Berman | NY Post

Berman was able to catch up with Harris' father, Torrel Harris, who also serves as his agent. As his son dismisses questions about his future, the elder Harris was happy to share that their focus remains on their current situation.

Torrel hopes it works out in Philly anyway. 

 “We’re worried about the playoffs right now,’’ said Torrel Harris, wearing a Sixers cap. “We’re hoping the future is the 76ers. Tobias loves it in Philly. Let’s see if they can get to the championship and win a chip.” [NY Post]

The Sixers have needed every bit of Harris to pick up important victories against Brooklyn, and his offensive versatility might be critical for this team moving forward. We'll see how the rest of the playoffs go, but I believe the Sixers' strong preference is for Harris to be back for the foreseeable future.

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