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Sixers - Hawks Game 5 Recap: What was That?

November 18, 2020. 212 Days Ago. Draft Night for the NBA. The Philadelphia 76ers selected Tyrese Maxey with the 21st overall pick that night, and later added Seth Curry, Isaiah Joe and Paul Reed. But this isn’t about them, at least not right now. Glenn Rivers, the 76ers new head coach, spoke with ESPN shortly after their first draft choice was made official. He said the following:

“You know, it is a talented team. Starting with Joel and Ben, and then when you name all the other guys, we have a huge supporting cast here. You know, we have to learn how to win. We’ve proven here that you can do a lot of winning and win a lot of games but we have not proven yet to be the winner.”

212 days later, those words ring truer than ever. In a confusing, embarrassing, and downright ugly 109-106 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to but Philly’s season on the brink, now a single loss from a second-round exit. At one point, the Sixers were up 83-58. Now, they're forced into a do or die Game 6 in Atlanta.

So for this, I’m going completely from the fan perspective for the first section. After a terrible loss, I’m going to say and type whatever comes to my mind. Then the next day, I’m going to be my rational thinking self and try to be slightly more measured. Let's see how this goes.

Ben Simmons

WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT???????!!! I defended him, saying that his scoring wasn’t an issue as long as the sixers were winning and he was doing other things as a high level. Well, here your opportunity was! The entire team was falling apart and all we could count on Ben Simmons (OUR ALL-STAR PG) for was missing free throws.

AND THE FREE THROWS!!!! The basketball gods granted you 14 free throws and you made 4 of them in a three-point loss. Not even like this is a one-time thing, this has been a problem since the first game of the first series. An 8th grader can shoot better than that and I’m pretty sure an 8th grader would take the time to improve after weeks of subpar play.

Simmons is wasting a season of MVP-Caliber play from Joel Embiid by not improving in 4 years on the offensive side of the ball, refusing to take freebie jumpers a real guard like Seth Curry would kill to have and choking away free chances for points, with the stadium celebrating when he goes 2/2.

This roster, in theory, is as good as it can get for a Ben/Joel pairing. The reason it isn’t working (and hasn’t worked) isn’t because of Joel, wasn’t because of Al Horford or Brett Brown, and isn’t because of Glenn (even though he shares blame) or Elton Brand. It’s because of the Sixers second max player who plays like a 4th grader when he isn’t in the paint and hasn’t shown any signs of improvement, attacks the game with a mentality that is softer than dollar store toilet paper and shrinks from the biggest moments and easiest shots.

And how does it get better? Unless a superstar requests to be traded to the Sixers for Simmons, what realistic way is there to get the shot creator Joel Embiid doesn’t just need, he deserves after suffering through however many years of Ben induced torture? The Warriors and Blazers sure as hell aren’t trading All-NBA superstars for him, and who wants to start a rebuild with a player that refuses to get better?

The Sixers (unless they want to lose a significant amount of value) will probably run this back next year, maybe get Kyle Lowry or something, and discover the core problem once again:

A 7-foot big man that dominates inside and a 6’10 point guard that outright refuses to shoot will always be ‘exposed’ in the playoffs, regardless of the opponent, surrounding talent, coach or anything else.

This was supposed to be the year that an improved Ben and Joel, with spacing, finally broke through. 2/3 of those parties are holding up their end.

One Day Later: Wow, I didn’t hold back with this one. And a day later I kind of agree. Unless Simmons has some miraculous turn around, it’s become clear that this version of Ben and Embiid probably will never win a championship together without exceptional teammates.

Seth Curry

Thank God for whoever thought trading him for Josh Richardson was a good idea, can you imagine how dangerous he’d be with Luka’s playmaking?? Also get Seth’s statue ready, and get his extension ready while you’re at it he’s the definition of a guard that fits perfectly with Embiid. He actually showed up tonight, and without him the Sixers wouldn't of had a lead to blow.

One Day Later: Seth Curry is good at basketball. That’s all I have to add.

Glenn Rivers (and the reserves)

JESUS CHRIST, YOU MAKE ME WANT BRETT BROWN BACK. PLEEAASSE TELL ME THAT ALL BENCH LINEUP WAS A GOOD IDEA. Also, Shake and Hill both sucked yesterday and when your team was lying dead on the court, waiting for the hawks to put them out of their collective misery you keep running them out there, with no changes or adjustments made?? Also, here’s a genius idea but maybe DONT FORCE FEED THE BALL TO EMBIID EVERY LATE GAME POSSESION. Capela was kind of right about Embiid is getting tired because the Hawks don’t respect anyone else on the court besides Seth Curry. And also, Korkmaz and Seth on defense at the same time in crunch time is very much not the move. Thybulle should probably outright start over Furkan because he's just the better player. And the team blowing and choking two straight games in that fashion, the coach is a large part of that and Glenn needs to hold the players accountable and start making just any adjustments at all.

One Day Later: Yeah, I’m really frustrated with Doc. No adjustments are made or accountability is shown throughout games, and while Doc should still be your coach going into next year, and his track record is very concerning but there aren’t too many better options out there. The Sixers aren’t a deep team, and they need to stop pretending they are. The entire bench mostly sucked, their defense lacked effort and Doc needs to start forcing accountability.

Joel Embiid

Hey Joel, you’re good at this whole Basketball thing, and you and Seth were the only ones to make any field goals in the second half. I can’t even really blame you too much when you miss because you have a 6’10 ‘point guard’ clogging up the paint and you’re third star being an offensive liability.

One Day Later: Joel Embiid is very good at basketball, and is worth every penny he should get with his supermax extension this summer. He’s far from the reason the Sixers are where they are.

Tobias Harris

At least when your lookalike in the Rwandan League scores 4 points he isn’t being paid 30 million dollars and yelling ‘I’m an All-Star'. That was probably harsh because I actually like Tobias but he was the biggest black hole I’ve ever seen today my god. Just brick after brick with no hope. I’m sitting here now and I can’t remember one good play he had during the game. He had a great bounce back season and strong first 7 games in the playoffs, and he probably isn’t going anywhere because of his contract and there aren’t that many better power forwards to pair with Embiid. Let’s hope he gets better with more space in the paint too.

One Day Later: 12 points from 2 max players is inexcusable, and Harris has been invisible over the past two games. He straight up needs to be better, and needs to take advantage of the good matchups he’s been getting.

Season Isn’t Over, But Does It Matter?

The Sixers play another basketball game on Friday, and they can technically torture their fans and force a Game 7 with a win. But it doesn’t matter. Lose Game 6 or 7, great you can get a head start on fixing your problems. If this sorry team can pull two wins out of who knows where and get to the conference finals? Great, Milwaukee or Brooklyn knows exactly how to stop you, Ben Simmons can’t make a free throw, you’ll still be running the all-bench lineup and Joel Embiid’s knees will be run into the ground trying to give the sixers an ounce of life.

There isn’t a bright future to look forward too. There isn’t a high pick, or any proven young players (but there are a couple of exciting ones). The Sixers are staring down the very real possibility that they flushed their franchise down the drain, got an all-world big man, built themselves back up just to face mediocrity and are facing the possibility of a soft reset. No, the Process wasn't a failure, not even close to one. But the pieces you got from it aren’t enough to win a championship without drastic moves being made, and if there are moves to be made you make them fast before your MVP finalist starts to get ideas of residing outside Philadelphia.

One Day Later: Yeah, this is kind of an overreaction. The Sixers future is still strong because they have an MVP caliber player entering his prime, several young promising players and other good pieces that will prevent them from completely bottoming out. But if the goal is a championship, changes need to be made to this roster and that’s something I stand by. The Sixers still have at least one winnable game ahead of them, and maybe two if they’re lucky.

Getting out of the second round isn’t something to overlook, and while Philly is extremely unlikely to make the Finals, a conference finals appearance represents progress, and getting further into the playoffs can only give Daryl Morey more information on what needs to be fixed to finally break through. This loss sucks, and raises serious questions about Philly’s future. But whether the Sixers go home after Friday or extend their season a little bit longer, they still overachieved this season, and have an MVP finalist to build around going forward.

There’s been a lot of bad around the Sixers recently, but the season overall wasn’t.

Philly now turns their attention to Game 6 against the Hawks, which is Friday at 7:30, Nationally Televised on ESPN.

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