At one point the Philadelphia 76ers had a 99.7 percent chance of winning their Game 5 showdown against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
They ultimately ended up losing 109-106.
One big reason for the defeat was Philadelphia’s general offensive ineptness. It genuinely seemed like everyone besides Joel Embiid and Seth Curry was incapable of putting the ball through the hoop.
And nothing stood tall as a better symbol of this general ineptness than Ben Simmons’ free throw shooting.
The youngster went 4-of-14 from the line during the outing and was forced to publicly confront this after the game.
“Definitely I think it’s mental,” Simmons said regarding his struggles, per Sixers insider Kyle Neubeck.
Simmons is a career 59.7 percent free throw shooter who is shooting 32.8 percent from the line in the playoffs. It’s a remarkable collapse – and it is effecting other aspects of his game. His fear of getting fouled manifested itself in him taking only four shots in Game 5.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers offered a fairly blunt assessment of Simmons’ shooting after his team’s stunning loss on Wednesday.
“When Ben makes them, we get to leave him in [the game],” he said.
— Game 7 (@game7__) June 14, 2021
“When he doesn’t, we can’t. That’s just the way it is.”
That of course is a far cry from what Rivers previously said about Simmons’ shooting.
One way or another, it’s gut check time for Philly. Either they’ll come back from this hole and truly earn their way into the Eastern Conference Finals, or they’ll allow Atlanta to expose them for being regular season pretenders. A definitive answer will come over the next few days.