If we’re assigning blame for the Game 4 loss, you could start and finish with Joel Embiid, who shot 0-12 in the second half and just didn’t look like himself playing on a torn meniscus.
He took responsibility for his performance, saying that he has to be better in Game 5, and Ben Simmons said the same when asked about his tepid second-half, which saw him operate mostly as a passenger.
“Yeah, I definitely should have been more aggressive and attacked more,” the All Star admitted postgame. “I think the spacing was a little off this game, we didn’t get to our spacing and weren’t as aggressive in that second half.”
It’s a story amplified by the fact that Simmons’ uber-aggressiveness was a key turning point in Game 3, when he came out figuratively blowing smoke out of the nostrils as he got downhill early and often to begin the third quarter. He shot six second-half field goals in that game, hit five of them, and finished with 18 points on 7-11 shooting while hitting four of eight foul shots.
In Game 4, look at his first half shot chart on the left, and second half shot chart on the right:
On a given night, Simmons should probably be option #4 when it comes to scoring. Ideally you want Embiid, Harris, and Curry taking the most shots, but what’s unique about Ben is that his downhill ability serves as a combination reset button and energy boost. It’s a way to get the gears grinding and get the offense moving again. It opens the drive and kick game, sets the spacing, and ups the tempo when things are slow and janky.
“We needed to move the ball more, play team ball, get good shots and get good looks,” Simmons added. “We came out too sluggish, they punched us and we didn’t punch back. That’s what it is.”
One other thing worth noting, one narrative worth absolutely trouncing and ripping is this:
“they had to take Simmons off at the end of game because he’s an offensive liability!”
This is absolute horseshit. In this particular situation, the Sixers were down three with six seconds on the clock. Doc Rivers subbed Simmons and Matisse Thybulle together because they needed a buzzer-beating three to tie the game. They needed shooters on the floor.
If you want to talk about Simmons being a late game, half court liability, that’s fine, because he is, but that specific situation doesn’t fit the bill. More often than not, they’ve been able to close with Ben in the dunker spot, and last night they got a good look for Embiid rolling to the basket, with Simmons able to attack the weak side rebound for a put-back attempt. No dice.
What Ben does well offensively is correct the pace and reset the tempo when things are sluggish, and it’s on him and the coaching staff to remind him to get downhill and attack when the offense isn’t operating the way it normally is. We got that in Game 3 but not in Game 4.