Nick Nurse calls out referees over Joel Embiid fouls in Raptors loss

The Toronto Raptors were the victims of a bludgeoning at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers, as Joel Embiid and the rest of his supporting cast were able to put up 131 points on Nick Nurse and his vaunted defense. Embiid was able to have his way with a smaller Raptors team in the paint.

Embiid was a paltry 5-15 from the field, but he still ended the night with 19 points and 16 rebounds by going 9-11 from the free-throw line. Philadelphia as a whole took 34 free throw attempts (29 of which they made), while Toronto attempted just 23 in the entire game.

While any team playing against a superstar runs the risk of being put into early foul trouble thanks to some preferential treatment from officials, the Raptors were unable to lay a finger on Embiid while the MVP candidate was able to do as he pleased. Nurse was not happy with that inconsistency.

Nurse took aim at the referees for how they called this game, claiming it’s impossible to guard Embiid if he is allowed to “run you over” without getting a foul called. Nurse also made mention of some errant Embiid elbows that went uncalled by the officials.

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse was mad at Joel Embiid and the refs.

Both Scottie Barnes, who later left the game with an ankle injury after Embiid stepped on his lower leg, and Khem Birch were on the wrong end of elbows from Embiid. Nurse estimates that only one of about three or four elbows thrown by Embiid was called correctly. It’s tough to win with that sort of whistle against you.

In Embiid’s last three games against the Raptors, he is shooting 21/57 (36%) from the field. The defensive alignments Nurse is throwing at Embiid appear to be impacting his shot. The referees bailing Embiid out with a soft whistle is not something the Raptors can withstand if they’re going to upset Philadelphia.

The Toronto frontcourt got even thinner ahead of Game 2, as Barnes and Thad Young were ruled as doubtful due to ankle and thumb injuries. Unless Precious Achiuwa suddenly turns into Hakeem Olajuwon, Toronto should expect more of the same from Embiid.

The whistle on Embiid was not the main reason they lost, and fixing that whistle would not have resulted in a Raptors win. However, the strengths the Raptors gain from their high-octane defense is minimized when key contributors are all in foul trouble. It will be even tougher to compete if the refs keep using such a quick whistle.