The Philadelphia 76ers had themselves a decent first half in Monday night's Game 4 matchup against the Atlanta Hawks. As they led by 13 points going into halftime, it seemed the Sixers were well on their way to take a 3-1 series lead over Atlanta.
However, maintaining the lead in Game 4 was too tall of a task for the 76ers. By the time the fourth quarter approached, the Sixers' 13-point cushion was down to just two points as they were outscored 31-20 in the third quarter.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Philly's offense had stalled completely. In the final 12 minutes, Philly scored just 18 points. Eight of those points came from the starting lineup, while the other 10 points came from Shake Milton and Dwight Howard.
Joel Embiid, who typically closes out games for the Sixers, showed clear signs of struggling offensively throughout the entire second half. In the third quarter, he shot 0-7 from the field in ten minutes of action.
Before the final two offensive possessions in the fourth quarter, Embiid was 0-4 from the field in seven minutes of playing time. Despite being scoreless on field goal attempts in the second half, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers relied on Embiid to put the Sixers ahead with eight seconds left while trailing one point.
Coming out of a timeout, Rivers drew up a play that got Embiid an ideal look, which allowed him to cut to the basket through an open lane. While Embiid got the shot off, it didn't fall like his previous 11 shots in the second half. Following the game, Embiid explained what went wrong for him on the play.
"I just didn't have the lift," the big man admitted on Monday night. "I thought I got fouled too. Usually, I would go up, especially for a bucket like that, trying to dunk it. [I would] try to get fouled and get an And-1. Like I said, I wasn't able to jump for obvious reasons. It's tough, but now we gotta think about Game 5."
Ever since the start of the second-round series against the Hawks, Embiid's been battling a meniscus tear. It was apparent in the first half that Embiid's knee was bothering him, and the issues continued to affect him in the final two quarters.
While the final play didn't pay off the way Doc Rivers and the 76ers wanted it to, he made it clear that he doesn't regret relying on Embiid in that situation despite his struggles in the second half. "Even on those nights [when players struggle], you still go to your guys," Rivers explained after the loss. "I've coached a lot of games where guys haven't had it all night, but they're your guys, and they get it."
Embiid and the Sixers will look to bounce back on Wednesday as they've got a Game 5 matchup against the Hawks at home on the schedule.