Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals did not go as the Philadelphia 76ers hoped, as they couldn’t capitalize on a rare off-shooting night from Trae Young in what became a 103-96 loss to enter what is now a very interesting offseason early.
After the game, a focal point was Ben Simmons, who had 13 points and eight rebounds, playing his typical key role defensively as well, but had just five points and for the fourth straight game did not attempt a shot from the field in the fourth quarter. Making that worse was that he had a wide open dunk that he passed up in the late fourth quarter to tie the game at 88, instead shoveling a pass to Matisse Thybulle who got fouled and split his free throws.
Doc Rivers was asked about that moment and just took a deep breath, saying, “yeah,” before moving on and later admitted he just didn’t know if Simmons could be a championship point guard. That passed up dunk came up later when Joel Embiid pointed to that sequence — including the ensuing Hawks bucket and his turnover after that — as “the turning point” in the game.
Here’s the whole clip… Embiid … after saying the passing up the open shot & 1 FT… also says that his turnover on that same timeframe was costly. pic.twitter.com/GhK9tU1HyA
— Amy Fadool Kane (@amyfadoolNBCS) June 21, 2021
You can tell that Embiid is trying not to completely shift the blame onto Simmons by noting his turnover after, one of many for him on what was a sloppy night for Philly as a unit, but it’s understandable that moment would stick out in the mind of Embiid and many others. It was a brutal sequence and was the embodiment of the issues Simmons has on the offensive end right now. Embiid also issued an apology to Philly on Twitter for not getting the Sixers further, as he’s unsurprisingly taking this latest early playoff exit hard.
PHILLY I LOVE YOU
Sorry to disappoint you again Just know that I gave everything I had knowing the circumstances. If there’s one thing I’ve learned being here, it’s the TOUGHNESS this city has and that’s why I played with a torn meniscus. THANK YOU FOR THE SUPPORT ALL YEAR LONG!! pic.twitter.com/CsR47xOJDZ
— Joel “Troel” Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) June 21, 2021
With Doc’s comments and Embiid’s, it certainly sets up an offseason where Simmons trade rumors are going to swirl — and fans have been firing up the trade machine for some time. What the impact of losing Simmons would have on the defense is hard to properly figure out given his versatility on that end, but if this series showed anything it’s that the Sixers desperately need to upgrade their backcourt offensively. Simmons will get the most blame of anyone on the roster for this loss, but there’s plenty to go around. Embiid, for as magnificent as he was all playoffs, had some rough turnovers and again seemed out of gas at the end. Tobias Harris looked like last year’s Harris and not this year’s improved version, missing a number of good looks near the rim in Game 7, and the bench unit was a disaster all series, with Doc Rivers failing to make rotation adjustments.
Still, Simmons’ refusal to dunk the ball will be one of the lasting images of this series for fans, and it’s clear it stood out in the moment to Embiid and the Sixers as well.