The Philadelphia 76ers completed one of the worst collapses from a 1-seed in recent playoff history on Sunday night, losing Game 7 at home to a resilient Atlanta Hawks team that deserves full credit for putting the Sixers into stressful situations and asking them to come up with answers offensively over and over late in games.
The Sixers could not do that at all in three of their four losses — with the Game 1 loss coming after getting smacked early and failing to complete a late comeback. Philly, which blew 18- and 26-point leads in Games 4 and 5, respectively, held a four-point advantage in Game 7, which is certainly less of a staggering lead to lose grip of, but that it happened on a night where Trae Young struggled shooting and the Hawks scored just 103 points hammered home the issues the Sixers have offensively.
Chief among those is Ben Simmons, who for the fourth straight game in the series went 0-for-0 from the field in the fourth quarter, which seems almost impossible.
Ben Simmons 4th quarter this series:
Game 1: 2-2 FG
Game 2: 0-0 FG
Game 3: 1-1 FG
Game 4: 0-0 FG
Game 5: 0-0 FG
Game 6: 0-0 FG
Game 7: 0-0 FG
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 21, 2021
It’s even more impossible when you consider he chose not to take a wide open dunk with only Young rotating over to him with Philly down two, passing it off to a shocked Matisse Thybulle who got fouled and split the free throws.
After the game, Doc Rivers was asked about Simmons and whether he can be the point guard on a championship team and he gave the honest answer, which is that he doesn’t know.
"Can Ben Simmons be the point guard of a championship team?"
Doc Rivers "I don't know the answer to that" pic.twitter.com/8eShCQiHrm
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 21, 2021
Rivers would at a different point say, “I still believe in him,” but noted that there was a lot of work to do with him in the gym to get him to a point where he’s better next year and more confident and willing to score. It has reached the point with Simmons where Sixers fans have grown so frustrated with the lack of scoring impact that they are almost completely in agreement that it’s time to move on from him and get someone with more offensive punch in there alongside Embiid at the guard spot. Whether Daryl Morey agrees or not remains to be seen, but Simmons was on the trade block in James Harden talks earlier in the season, and Morey has never been shy about shuffling the deck in a big way when he sees a glaring need.
It might be best for all parties if Simmons is moved, as a fresh start away from the house of playoff horrors that Philadelphia has become may just bring out the best in him — as would a fresh perspective. As he noted after the game, he needs to clear his head after this series.
Simmons: "We lost, it sucks, I am who I am, it is what it is, it's not easy to win…first thing I'm going to do is clear my mind and get my mental right."
— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) June 21, 2021
Rivers, meanwhile, has plenty of blame to be laid at his feet for this series, with dreadful bench deployment, namely with Dwight Howard who was awful all series, and refusing to try small-ball lineups with Simmons at the five in lieu of Howard, which would’ve given the Hawks a much different look and put Simmons in the game early in the quarter. That would’ve helped the “hack-a-Simmons” situation as he could’ve played more minutes with the Sixers not in the bonus and exited for the middle before coming in fresh late.
Still, no one in Philly is happy with just about anyone not named Joel Embiid or Seth Curry, and the offseason is about to be very interesting in the city of brotherly love.