Five takeaways from the Sixers disgraceful Game 5 loss
1. Ben Simmons
The most polarizing player on the Sixers set the Twitter world on fire after his horrendous Game 5 performance. Ben Simmons finished with just 8 points. What makes it even worse, after weeks and weeks of talking about being more aggressive in the playoffs, Ben Simmons took just four shots in the game. While I have certainly defended Simmons, I constantly point out how his lack of aggressiveness ruins his ability on the court.
Elite NBA talents don’t take four shots in a playoff game, even without a jump shot. So Simmons has no excuse to constantly pass up layups in the paint on drives to kick the ball out. Over and over, he would refuse to put the ball up even with smaller defenders on him. As a result, he became an enigma, an offensive liability on the court, just like all the NBA casuals and fake Sixers fans said he would be.
The worst part of it all, though, was the dreaded free throws. I warned everyone of his free throw troubles for weeks, praying that they would improve before it truly cost the Sixers a game. But, unfortunately, the day of reckoning came and went in Game 5. Ben Simmons went a terrible 4-for-12 from the free-throw line, which included many misses during another “Hack-A-Ben” scenario to get the Hawks back into the game.
I am honestly shocked at this point. Simmons had slowly been making more and more progress each year at the line, raising his average from the 50 percent mark to the mid-60s. Now all of a sudden, he’s shooting just above 32-percent from the stripe this post-season. This was the most disgraceful performance I’ve seen from Simmons since his one-point playoff game, and I am truly out of words after it.
2. Doc Rivers
As many of you already know, the Sixers were holding a 22-point lead as the third was coming to a close. Unfortunately, after a Game 4 loss in which the Sixers held a similar lead before the half, Doc Rivers didn’t learn from his mistakes just two days prior. Once again, Doc took his foot off the gas and let the Hawks stage a comeback. While it certainly isn’t all Rivers’ fault, the lineups and rotations he put out with a lead were questionable.
How do you trot out another all-bench lineup at the end of the third/start of the fourth after watching that same group blow a giant lead just two days ago? How does such a sensational rookie like Tyrese Maxey only see the court for a minute? On top of that, how do you expect to facilitate any good offense with a lineup consisting of Hill, Thybulle, Milton, Simmons, and Howard? Especially on a night where you already know Ben Simmons is struggling heavily.
Once Doc realized he wasn’t going to score points with that unit, he moves to take all the defense out of the lineup by taking Thybulle and Simmons out. That’s when the Hawks, in around five minutes, cut a 22 point Sixer lead to just eleven before the starters had to be raced back onto the court. There’s a reason so many of the worst single-game playoff collapses involve Doc Rivers. Sadly, Doc seems to be stuck in his old ways after so many years and playoff games.
3. Tobias Harris
I truly don’t know what has happened to Tobias Harris. After starting the playoffs off so hot, things have only gone downhill for Harris. His numbers in the series against the Hawks are worse than those against the Wizards (25 PPG versus 17.6 PPG). That slow fall turned into a steep drop-off in game five.
Harris finished the loss with just four points. Harris shot the ball eleven times, making just two shots. He didn’t hit a single three, and he didn’t go to the foul line at all. Harris seemed to have reverted to his Brett Brown Era days, where he was too scared to make any decisions.
Harris routinely got caught dribbling the ball too much with no sense of urgency or change of direction. He was too afraid to go to the basket for layups and constantly settled for contested shots all around the arc. The worst part isn’t how much the Sixers are paying him, but how much regression he showed in just one game. A game that was so important to this team’s season.
4. The Bench
Another surefire way to lose leads in the NBA is with an abysmal performance from your role players, and that is exactly what the Sixers got on Wednesday. The bench combined for a mere 13 points in the loss, and I will deduct the six points Matisse Thybulle contributed because he did his job well in this game.
Thybulle only took two shots and hit both of them, but considering all we need him to do offensively is be reliable and confident when left open from three, I’d say he did his job well. Unfortunately, that means that the rest of the bench combined for seven measly points.
Shake Milton and George Hill shot an atrocious 2-10 from the field off the bench, and Dwight Howard missed his only two attempts. One of which included a missed dunk on a perfect alley-oop. Even with the starters playing more minutes, great teams have reliable guys that can score off the bench.
If you’re down some offense off the bench with Korkmaz starting, I expect guys like Milton, Maxey, and Hill to be able to muster up more than seven points on a playoff team. But, ultimately, the bench is just another cog in what was a very, very broken machine known as the Sixers last night.
5.) A Silver Lining
Even in the worst of Sixer losses, I will find a silver lining to cling onto for dear life, and in this game, there are two players I won’t be bashing. Joel Embiid responded to the criticism, and Capela comments masterfully in this game. Joel went perfect from the field in the first quarter to rack up 17-points early.
He would go on to finish with 37 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks. Even so, one of the most dominant players of the season can’t do it independently, but Embiid’s stat line certainly proved he gave it his all. But, of course, that was the expected outcome; nobody really doubted Embiid wouldn’t come out hot.
On the other hand, Seth Curry was a wonderful surprise at the bottom of the pile of garbage that was the Sixers on Wednesday. Seth Curry finished with an insane 36 points, shooting 13-19 from the field and 7-12 from three. On top of that, Curry once again shut down Bogdanovic on defense and landed him in foul trouble early. As a result, Bogdanovic ended the game 3-of-9 with only six points.
While we expected the Embiid performance, it was very nice to see Seth Curry evolve and stay consistent with each passing playoff game. His offensive game is truly evolving in front of our eyes as he breaks out of the “catch and shoot guy” mantra on the game’s biggest stage, the post-season.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Striecher.