After an abysmal series in which he attempted just three fourth-quarter shots in seven games, the heat appears to have cranked up significantly for Ben Simmons.
The All-Star point guard was unsurprisingly the focal point of conversation following the 76ers' 103-96 loss to the Hawks at home in Game 7 of the second round. In the immediate aftermath of the loss, it was his coach and All-Star center who were the ones questioning his performance.
When asked whether Simmons could be the point guard of a championship-caliber team, head coach Doc Rivers was ambivalent in his answer.
For the series, Simmons averaged just 9.9 points per game and shot 15-for-45 (33.3%). He attempted only 14 shots in the final three games and had just three fourth-quarter field goal attempts in the entire series, with that passivity greatly hindering Philadelphia offensively during crunch time.
The play that embodied Simmons's offensive woes came in the fourth quarter, when he appeared to have a clear path to a layup but passed the ball off instead to Matisse Thybulle, who was fouled on a shot attempt. Thybulle made one of two free throw attempts to trim Atlanta's lead to one point with 3:29 left.
In his post-game press conference with reporters, Embiid alluded to the play as a turning point without naming Simmons specifically.
Embiid was at the top of the key when the play occurred, and appeared visibly frustrated that Simmons passed up the shot.
Simmons has four years and more than $145 million remaining on his contract. Outside shooting was a weakness for Simmons coming out of college, and it's an area of his game he has been unable to develop. He's 5-for-34 on three-point attempts for his career, and he's made 52.0% of his 171 career free throw attempts in the postseason.
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