With 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, Joel Embiid made a 16 footer to take the lead up to 85 - 61. At that moment, the Philadelphia 76ers had a 99.7% win probability. What happened next was a meltdown of epic proportions. A lot of things went wrong for the Sixers, but one stat will again be no.1 on everyone's talking points.
The Hawks made 22 out of 28 free throws (78.6%), while the 76ers were 23-38 (60.5%), and it gets worse. Embiid was 11-13, but the two misses came at the end of the game in a crucial moment. Ben Simmons shot 4 out of 14 from the charity stripe and is 22 for 66 from the line in the playoffs (33%). That matches him with Shaq for the worst free throw percentage in Playoffs history. Doc Rivers was clear about his status.
"When Ben makes them, we get to leave him in. When he doesn't, we can't. That's just the way it is."
Doc Rivers, postgame interim
Until he learns how to shoot free throws (and a mid-ranger wouldn't hurt as well), we can't talk about Ben Simmons as a star anymore. For the time being, The Process gave the 76ers one star that can't seem to stay healthy in Joel Embiid, and a defensive monster who can't stay on the court in crucial moments due to his inability to make a free throw in Ben Simmons. The Sixers got booed by their own crowd at the end of the game, and a few stats explain why.
It gets worse. In the entire second half, only Joel Embiid and Seth Curry made a field goal for the 76ers. Curry went 9-12, and Embiid went 3-9. We're talking about the 3rd most expensive roster in the NBA, and only two guys could make a bucket for half of the game. Only two teams paid more this year - the Warriors and the Nets.
While this was a meltdown, the other team on the court had something to do with it. The Hawks scored only 40 points in the 1st half, scored 40 in the 4th quarter. Nate McMillan has to get a lot of credit. When Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, and Trae Young opened the 4th quarter with a huge run against the Sixers 2nd unit, McMillan did something more and more coaches find mystical - he disregarded the game plan and left the hot guys on the court. Revolutionary stuff.
"We found a hot hand in Lou and found a rotation that works and stayed with it. They showed their true character."
Nate McMillan, postgame interview
Trae Young led the Hawks with a 39/1/7, shooting 10-23 from the field, 2-6 for three, and most importantly, 17-19 from the charity stripe. Comparing Young to Luka, saying one guy is in Slovenia, and the other is still in the Playoffs is taking things out of context - Trae has a much better supporting cast. But one thing is undeniable - Young is a legitimate no.1 guy in the Playoffs.
"When you talk about underdogs, for a team that has no All-Stars, no All-Defensive players, no All-NBA players, this team is fighting. We're in the 2nd round of the playoffs and I think we've just had that chip on our shoulder all year of being overlooked."
Trae Young, postgame interview
The Sixers have 48 hours to figure out how to save Embiid's legs for the 4th quarter. It's obvious the moment his knee injury catches up with Joel during the game, the 76ers are toast. Also, if the highest-paid player getting $34 million per year could make a bucket in the second half, that would help. Doc Rivers was suppposed to have been the Tobias Harris whisperer, but we've seen no proof of that so far.
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