The Trials and Tribulations of Ben Simmons Playoff Free Throw Shooting
While it has certainly been a good start to the post-season for the Sixers, there are, of course, a couple of concerns. Outside the entire city of Philadelphia awaiting an update on Joel Embiid after his early exit from game four, one issue stands tall involving everyone’s favorite three-time all-star. Our story begins in Monday’s loss where Ben Simmons finally hit his first basket from the charity stripe, ending an 0-10 streak. That streak means that Ben Simmons now hold the unfortunate award for the most missed free throws before a make in the playoffs.
While Simmons certainly isn’t the best free throw shooter, it is surprising to see him struggle from the line after showing steady improvement from the stripe over his NBA career. Simmons in his first season shot a measly 56 percent from the stripe, and has since improved that mark to the mid 60s. While many NBA casuals criticize Simmons for a lack of a three point shot, consistency from the line has always been much more important.
Capitalizing on free points is always going to be crucial for a downhill, physical player like Ben Simmons, especially in the post-season. While there were many issues in the Sixers’ game four loss, Ben shooting 5 for 11 from the stripe certainly didn’t help. As painful as it is to admit, the “Hack-a-Ben” strategy late in the fourth did work for the Wizards as Simmons never made both free throws from the line the entire night.
Despite his struggles Doc Rivers wasn’t disappointed with Simmons’ performance outside the foul trouble. Rivers saw no issue with Simmons’ performance from the line when the Wizards intentionally fouled him, citing Simmons giving the Sixers a point per possession shooting free throws in the fourth. Simmons didn’t seem disturbed by his shooting either, giving this quote to the media after the loss:
So, how did Simmons respond? Well a little over three hours before game five’s tip-off from Wells Fargo Center Ben was spotted taking the court, and heading straight for the free throw line. He was one of the first Sixers to take the court before the game, and made sure to put the work in at the line, and like a modern-day movie Simmons got his chance at redemption.
For the second game in a row, Scott Brooks went to the “Hack-a-Ben” strategy that worked for him late in game four. This time, Ben was ready and knocked down three of the four shots from the stripe given to him courtesy of the Wizards head coach. What made it even more poetic was watching him bring the ball back down the court the possession after hitting both shots from the stripe, and seeing Brooks wave off his players from fouling Ben.
While this story does have a happy ending, it comes with a foreboding warning for the future. Luckily this series Ben could survive struggling from the line as much as he did, but that can’t happen anymore. Against teams like the Nets or Bucks, Simmons cannot leave that many free points on the board and expect his team to win. Only time will tell if Simmons free-throw woes were simply a fluke, or a foreshadowing of a much bigger problem.
Mandatory Credit: John Clark, Stephen Gosling.