Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers called a timeout in the final seconds of Thursday's 114-105 loss to the Brooklyn Nets to alert the officials they didn't call a single foul against the Nets in the fourth quarter.
"They needed to see that," Rivers told reporters afterward, adding he was particularly frustrated with the lack of whistles when All-Star center Joel Embiid had the ball.
"I thought Joel got fouled the last three post possessions, and-ones, and none was called," he said. "I don't know how a team can play the fourth quarter of a game where we're driving the ball and posting the ball and they have zero fouls. It's hard to play a quarter in the NBA and commit no fouls. Very surprised by that."
While Brooklyn played the final 12 minutes without a foul, the Sixers were whistled eight times in the fourth quarter. Only one of those came late in the game after the result was out of reach.
That's a large disparity in a game that was still hanging in the balance with two minutes to play. Embiid said he understood his coach's frustration.
"I mean, they're the home team," Embiid said. "I thought we got fouled a few times, especially down there. But, I mean, it's frustrating when they're calling fouls for the other teams down there and you don't get any. I can see what he was talking about."
It marked the third straight loss for the 76ers, which dropped to 15-15. They've been struggling to remain competitive recently while putting together makeshift lineups.
Tyrese Maxey (quad injury), Furkan Korkmaz (illness) and Georges Niang (COVID protocols) all missed the matchup with the Nets. Ben Simmons has yet to play this season while focusing on his mental health.
Rivers noted that at some point all of the absences create too many issues to overcome, especially for a squad with limited size.
"Listen, we got to get right," he told reporters. "We got to get everybody back. We played a game tonight without a point guard, and with one power forward. We're just so small. We are in general. We're a small basketball team."
The big-picture outlook for Philadelphia is still promising, especially if the long-awaited Simmons trade is eventually finalized to bring in another impact player or two, but the team is going through a period of uncertainty that won't end until the roster is back to full strength.
In the short term, Rivers' group will look to get back in the win column Sunday night when they welcome the struggling New Orleans Pelicans (9-21) to the Wells Fargo Center.