In the wake of the Sixers‘ second crushing Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the last three years, all eyes are on Ben Simmons, whose poor foul shooting and reluctance to put up shots – especially in the fourth quarter – helped doom Philadelphia.
“I ain’t shoot well from the line this series,” Simmons said on Sunday after the Sixers’ loss, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “Offensively, I wasn’t there. I didn’t do enough for my teammates. … There’s a lot of things that I need to work on.”
Simmons made just 15-of-45 free throws in the seven-game series vs. Atlanta and connected on only 34.2% of his total foul shots in the playoffs, the worst mark ever for a player with more than 70 attempts in a single postseason.
He also seemed eager to get the ball out of his hands in fourth quarters, for fear of being fouled. At one point late in the Sixers’ loss on Sunday, Simmons passed up an open dunk attempt to get the ball to Matisse Thybulle, who was fouled and subsequently made one of two free throws. Joel Embiid singled out that play in his post-game comments to reporters, McMenamin notes.
“Man, I will be honest. I thought the turning point was, you know, when we, I don’t know how to say it, but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and they came down and scored,” Embiid said.
The 76ers have invested heavily in Simmons, who is owed nearly $147M over the next four years. He was supposed to be a franchise cornerstone alongside Embiid. However, when head coach Doc Rivers was asked after Sunday’s game whether Simmons can be the point guard for a championship team, Rivers didn’t commit one way or the other.
“I don’t know that question or the answer to that right now,” he said.
Here’s more on the Sixers’ three-time All-Star: