Ben Simmons took one second-half shot in the Sixers’ Game 4 loss to Atlanta.

He certainly was not the reason for the defeat, but admitted after the game that he could have been more assertive, saying this:

“Yeah, I definitely should have been more aggressive and attacked more. 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.”

The passive second-half performance was the opposite of what we got in Game 3, when Simmons came out in the third quarter like he was shot out of a cannon, getting downhill early and often and getting some needed baskets at the rim. His ability to attack got the offense going in what ultimately finished as a blowout win.

Oddly enough, on Tuesday, Rivers was asked about Simmons’ Game 4 comments and completely differed.

“I actually couldn’t disagree with that more,” the head coach said. “I actually think, more aggressive if he’s talking about facilitating, yeah. Getting the ball up the floor with better pace. But not as far as shooting or anything like that, just getting us into our stuff, more aggressively with better pace, and that may end up with him shooting the ball because of that. But we were just walking the ball up the floor, taking our time, and so maybe that’s what he means, and then he’s right about that for sure. But that’s not how we play basketball.”

Hmmm.. well, it’s certainly true that the point guard’s role is to set the offensive tempo and pull the pieces together around him. It was a little stagnant the other night, but if Joel Embiid goes just 2-12 in the second half instead of 0-12, we might be looking at a 3-1 series lead and a close out opportunity on Wednesday night.

The bottom line is that Ben’s aggression and linear ability to get to the rim serves multiple purposes. It resets the offense. It boosts the energy and focus on the floor. It sets a physical tone. Sometimes it just gets the gears turning again when things are stagnant. He doesn’t have to be option one, two, or even three on a given night, but if you go through the last four seasons of Sixers basketball, you generally find that good things come from a downhill, attacking Ben, when he’s picking the right spots and not overdoing it.

On a macro level, the Rivers/Simmons media thing is interesting. Doc has spent most of the season telling us that Ben criticism is unwarranted and overblown. I tend to agree with him on that, but he quite clearly challenged him during halftime of Game 3 and got positive results from that. It’s fascinating, this give and take of public praise vs. whatever goes on behind the scenes in trying to pull the most of a star who shows flashes of brilliance but sometimes disappears when needed.