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Doc Rivers, Joel Embiid cite Ben Simmons' struggles after 76ers' playoff exit

Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons struggled to produce on offense throughout the team's Eastern Conference Semifinals series loss to the Atlanta Hawks. File Photo by Peter Foley/UPI
Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons struggled to produce on offense throughout the team's Eastern Conference Semifinals series loss to the Atlanta Hawks. File Photo by Peter Foley/UPI | License Photo

June 21 (UPI) -- Coach Doc Rivers and All-Star center Joel Embiid cited numerous instances of Ben Simmons' struggles when questioned about the reasons for the Philadelphia 76ers' playoff series loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Embiid said the "turning point" in the series finale was when Simmons passed up a wide open dunk attempt in the fourth quarter of the Game 7 103-96 loss Sunday in Philadelphia.

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The 76ers trailed 88-86 with 3:31 remaining when Simmons caught a pass and backed down Hawks forward Danilo Gallinari in the paint.

Simmons spun around to create an open look just a few feet from the basket. The 76ers guard then passed up an open shot attempt and threw the ball to teammate Matisse Thybulle, who was fouled during a shot attempt. Tybulle made just one of his two free throw attempts.

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"I'll be honest I thought the turning point was when we ... I don't know how to say it, but we had an open shot and we missed a free throw," Embiid told reporters.

Hawks star guard Trae Young went on to make a clutch 3-pointer about a minute later, which gave his team a 93-87 edge. Simmons then missed one of two free throw attempts, which could have cut the Hawks' lead to two points with 1:48 remaining.



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Simmons' struggles were a continuation of his lackluster postseason. The 76ers guard scored one point and did not attempt a shot in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss. The three-time All-Star was 2 for 4 from the field with five points, 13 assists and eight rebounds in the series finale.

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Simmons did not attempt a shot in the fourth quarter in five games during the Eastern Conference Semifinals series. He averaged 9.9 points, 8.6 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game in the series. Simmons made just 33% of his free throws in the series.

He averaged career-lows with 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game in the regular season.

Rivers shook his head and sighed when reporters asked about Simmons' passed-up shot in his postgame news conference.

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"Obviously, he struggled from the free throw line and that became a factor in the series," Rivers said. "I still believe in him, but we have work to do. We have to get in the gym and put a lot of work in and go forward."

Rivers also said he "didn't know" when asked if Simmons is capable of being a starting point guard for a championship team.

Simmons, who averaged 14.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 9.2 assists per game in the 76ers' first-round series win over the Washington Wizards, said the team's lack of pace led to the offensive struggles.

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He told reporters he didn't think he played differently than he did during the regular season and pointed to his defensive effort against Young, who went 5 for 23 from the field.

"I feel like I found my guys, which I [also] do in the regular season," Simmons said. "Trae had a tough night.

"Offensively, I probably didn't do enough. There are a lot of things I didn't do well this series. We lost. It sucks. I am who I am. It is what it is. It's not easy to win and that shows."

Simmons is under contract with the 76ers through 2024-25. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft signed a five-year, $169.6 million contract extension in 2019. He declined to address if he still would be on the team next season.

"I feel like we just lost Game 7," Simmons said. "That's about it. I love being in Philly. I love this organization. The fans are great people. I had a bad series. I expect that [criticism]."

Embiid, who averaged 30.4 points and 12.7 rebounds per game in the series, played with a torn meniscus. The four-time All-Star has been teammates with Simmons for five seasons. The 76ers have won at least 58% of their games over the last four seasons, but have failed to advance past the conference semifinals.

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The 76ers won two of the first three games in the best-of-seven series against the Hawks. The Hawks responded with wins in three of the last four games to win the series.

"It sucks to come up short once again," Embiid said. "There is a lot of stuff that happened. We felt like this was going to be our year.

"If there is one thing i want to say, it's that I gave everything I had. It's not easy, especially when something always happens at the wrong time. I was ready to come in and just dominate and do what I had to do.

"There is a lot to regret."

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