For the second straight game, the Sixers found themselves incapable of holding on to a big lead. After being up as much as 26 at one point in game 5 on Wednesday, things went down to the wire. The Atlanta Hawks managed to claw their way back and steal another win to take a 3-2 lead in the series.
Multiple reasons played a part in this loss. One of the larger points involves Ben Simmons' free-throw shooting. His struggles at the line have been apparent all season and were on full display in game 5.
Atlanta resorted to hack-a-Ben tactics at the end of each half and saw great success. They sent him to the line a total of 14 times, and he converted only four of those attempts. These empty possessions helped the Hawks create an opening to get back into the game.
After the game, Doc Rivers dove spoke of this situation. While it had a negative impact down the stretch, Rivers felt the hack-a-Ben was beneficial in some ways for the Sixers.
"The fouls in the first half actually helped us. We actually increased the lead when we were doing it, and in the beginning of the third quarter, Bogdanovic and Huerter were at four and five fouls," said Rivers.
While Rivers felt it helped the Sixers at one point, he did not disregard the impact the missed free-throws had down the stretch. "The missed free throws in the fourth quarter hurt us, so I would say that's where it affected us for sure," he ended with.
What to do with Simmons in this situation is a tough decision for Rivers. On one hand, the team needs what he brings as a defender and initiator on offense. But it is tough to keep him on the floor when opposing teams can easily exploit a weak part of his game.
How Simmons handles himself at the line dictates how long he can stay on the floor, and Rivers has come to accept that. "When Ben makes them, we get to keep him in, and when he doesn't, we can't. That's just the way it is," said Rivers postgame.
The Sixers now find themselves facing the brink of elimination in game 6 on Friday. It will be interesting to see how short of a leash Rivers has with Simmons if the hack-a-Ben rears its ugly head again.
Kevin McCormick covers the Philadelphia 76ers for South Jersey's 97.3 ESPN and Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @KevinMcCNBA.