The Philadelphia 76ers led the Atlanta Hawks by as many as 26 points in the first half of Game 5. They led by 22 at the half and 18 entering the fourth quarter. And somehow, they lost (again).
It was as dramatic a collapse as anything we’ve seen in these playoffs or, really, a recent postseason (although the Bucks certainly have a case in their own Game 5 meltdown on Tuesday). There are eye-popping stats that you can pull from all over the final shot sheet. You can point out Ben Simmons being 4-of-14 from the free throw line in a three-point loss. You can notice that Joel Embiid (39) and Seth Curry (36) were the only Sixers to reach double figures in the game, with Simmons (2-of-4 from the field) and Tobias Harris (2-of-11) being almost complete no-shows in terms of providing complementary scoring.
However, it’s the second half box score that really stands out, as Embiid and Curry were the only two Sixers to make a shot from the field in the entire half.
I can’t really believe what I’m seeing: Joel Embiid and Seth Curry were the only Sixers to make a basket in the second half. pic.twitter.com/2c5yijUn5r
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 17, 2021
That is 24 minutes with two people scoring, a near impossible feat in an NBA game (like, it hasn’t happened in at least 15 playoffs), but the Sixers managed to pull it off in the biggest game of their season. It’s wild to think about how bad this collapse could have been if Curry hadn’t been engulfed in flames in the third quarter. Embiid, as was the case in the second half of Game 4, seemed to run out of gas after a dominant first half where he had 24 and 10, finishing just 3-of-9 from the field in the second half and was not able to get to the free throw line consistently in the second half to try and work out of the shooting drought — and when he did late in a three-point game, he bricked both after making 11-of-11 prior to that.
Making matters even worse for the Sixers and their two stars is they earned one of the true rarities in the sports: a disappointed Magic Johnson tweet.
The Sixers shot poorly from the free throw line and the field, including superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) June 17, 2021
This is a man who, to an at times painful degree, looks to the positive side of life at all times, and even he couldn’t help but call out that collapse (while remaining on brand). You’ve got to feel sick when Magic hits you with a tweet like this. The Hawks certainly deserve credit for their play in the fourth, but the story really is the Sixers just losing their collective minds on offense and forgetting how to put the ball in the basket, losing the final quarter 40-19.