In the aftermath of the 76ers manhandling the Nets in their Game 2 blowout victory Monday night in Philadelphia, All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons sat together on the news conference podium and giggled like a couple of schoolboys who knew they got away with something as Embiid offered an “apology” that was far short of heartfelt for decking Nets center Jarrett Allen with an elbow to the mouth.
“I saw the replay and obviously wasn’t intentional and I got him pretty good and I’m sorry about . . . ” Embiid said before he and Simmons looked at each other and cracked up. After regaining control, Embiid added, “I’m sorry about it. It wasn’t intentional.” Nodding toward Simmons, Embiid said, “I’m not usually humble. That’s why he’s laughing.”
Several Nets who saw a replay of Embiid’s remarks weren’t laughing after practice Wednesday, and it won’t be surprising if they go into Game 3 Thursday night at Barclays Center with a chip on their shoulders and a physical edge to their games in a first-round series tied at 1-1.
“We didn’t really like that,” Nets guard Caris LeVert said. “We thought that was kind of disrespectful, especially after the elbow he threw. There’s no love lost. It’s a playoff series. We expect that.”
Asked if Embiid’s actions demand a physical response, LeVert said, “We just want to play our game and do whatever it takes to win. Be physical when we can. We don’t feel like we’re a dirty team. We definitely have to protect ourselves out there.”
Embiid was given a Flagrant 1 foul though many Nets thought he should have been ejected with a flagrant two. Moments after the Embiid shot, Nets rookie Rodions Kurucs tangled with Simmons, shoved a forearm in his face and also was hit with a Flagrant 1 for a far less severe blow.
Spencer Dinwiddie said the Nets can’t afford to take justice into their own hands, implying they don’t get the same leeway from the officials as the 76ers do. “If J.A. throws the same elbow and hits Joel, he’s getting ejected,” Dinwiddie said. “That’s just kind of what it is. We can’t play that game.”
After Game 2, Allen said he didn’t believe Embiid’s shot was delivered “with menace,” and he stuck to that answer Wednesday and downplayed the notion of seeking revenge.
Asked for his reaction to laughter by Embiid and Simmons, Allen said, “I honestly don’t know what to think about it. I’m just thinking how I say it. I don’t think there was any malice. I just think it was an aggressive play. Go to the next play and play basketball.”
Jared Dudley described Embiid, who has a history of emotional displays, as a “silly guy.” He wondered why the NBA didn’t fine Embiid.
“I felt a certain type of way for it just because you’re laughing and someone could have really gotten hurt,” Dudley said. “Luckily, Jay did pop up. For us, you can get even however you want to do it, but the biggest thing for us to get even is winning Game 3.”
The way Allen leapt to his feet and celebrated drawing the charge with his teammates actually might have convinced the referees the blow wasn’t as severe as it appeared. With a smile, Dudley said he would have handled it differently.
“You’ve got to sell it,” Dudley said. “You’re supposed to stay down. On that one, I don’t know how he popped up so fast. I think he was so excited just to show guys on the bench he could take a charge. I think it took him five to seven minutes of his jaw being swollen a little bit to realize it’s a lot harder than you think.”