Suns’ Jusuf Nurkic Unhappy With Refs On Historic Night

Jusuf Nurkic, Suns, NBA
Mar 3, 2024; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic (20) reacts during the fourth quarter of the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic had one of the most memorable performances in recent NBA history on Sunday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was a one-man cleaning crew on the glass, pulling down 31 rebounds.

It was the most by a single player in an NBA game in 13 years. The last time a player grabbed that many boards was November 12th, 2010 when Kevin Love had 31 against the New York Knicks.

The 31 rebounds also mark the most in a single game in Suns franchise history. The previous high was held by Tyson Chandler, who grabbed 27 rebounds playing against the Atlanta Hawks back in 2016. 

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Jusuf Nurkic, Frank Vogel, Phoenix Suns Updates

Nurkic’s previous career-high was 23, which he set as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers against the Sacramento Kings back in 2019. He had gotten close to his career-high twice this season, recording 22 rebounds in games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets.

“I saw, on the screen, that I had 28,” Nurkic said, when asked if he knew, during the game, he was on his way to history. “But it doesn’t really matter. I mean, it’s great, but we lost the game.”

The Suns did lose to the Thunder 118-100 on Sunday evening, ruining the moment for Nurkic and his team. After the game, the focus wasn’t so much on his accomplishments, but the performance of the refereeing crew.

In his post-game presser, Nurkic expressed a lot of displeasure with how the game was officiated. He, along with head coach Frank Vogel, were critical of some of the calls they believe were missed late in the game as Phoenix mounted a comeback against Oklahoma City.

“I don’t know, man, I’m just trying to do my role the best I can. But it’s kind of really messed up when you have 13 offensive rebounds and 16 shots then zero free throws,” Nurkic said. “As hard as I work, and I feel like [I’m] getting fouled as [much as] anybody in the league.

“And I’m not here saying — we lost the game, it is what it is — [but] it’s just, it’s not really common sense. At least one [free throw]. [To] not even have one? But I know it happens. I ain’t the first one, and I ain’t going to be the last, either, unfortunately.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Jusuf Nurkic, Frank Vogel, Phoenix Suns Updates

Normally, players who are doing work in the paint will be rewarded with foul calls throughout the game. Aggressiveness is something referees will reward, but that wasn’t the case on Sunday night.

Despite the work he did in the paint, Nurkic didn’t receive a favorable whistle. Vogel’s issues with the NBA officials in the game stemmed from non-calls against his superstar, Kevin Durant.

“We’ve got to be better,” the coach said. “[But] I’ll start by saying they fouled the s— out of Kevin Durant all night. Whether he has the ball and he’s getting stripped three, four, maybe even five times, and every time he tries to get open, he’s being held, which is something I really want the league to look at.”

While the referees may not have helped the cause, the Suns did turn the ball over 22 times in the game, compared to only six for the Thunder. That is a quick way for a game to get out of hand.

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