GRADES: Joel Embiid runs out of gas in Sixers’ Game 4 loss to Hawks

Joel Embiid, Sixers (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid, Sixers (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Sixers‘ big first half would not be enough as the game’s biggest superstars struggled and the secondary leads became the focus.

Atlanta tried to ignite the crowd early as a quick four assist start by Trae Young paired well with two baskets each from Clint Capela and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Despite the 10-4 jump, Philadelphia had no trouble finding their way back as Trae Young’s shot failed to convert. An 0-for-6 start paved the way as Philadelphia went on a 22-6 run to reclaim the quarter on the backs of Seth Curry and early on from Joel Embiid.

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Entering the second quarter, Philadelphia led the way 28-20.

Much like the first, the second started in Atlanta’s favor. Young’s shot began to fall and with his second three-pointer in just over a minute, Atlanta trailed only 43-38.

A Tobias Harris three, Embiid bullying Capela, and a Young technical kicked off a 17-4 run for Philadelphia that saw them taking control of a pivotal Game 4. Sneaky important: Atlanta closed on a 7-2 run to end the half 62-49.

Everything changed for Philadelphia at halftime. Old problems arose, but with subtle new wrinkles that will be important to monitor.

Philadelphia is a good team without Embiid, but they aren’t a deep playoff run team. With Embiid playing poorly, their offense is inept. 13 first half points wouldn’t be added to until the 3:23 mark… in the fourth quarter.

The offense sputtered despite the fact the rest of the team managed to keep things fairly on course. The bench turned the ball over too much and no individual was lighting up the net, but Philadelphia blew this game.

Despite the Philadelphia’s struggles, Atlanta couldn’t shrink the lead. An early scoring spurt placated to a back-and-forth affair seemingly bouncing between a 7-9 point Philadelphia lead throughout the quarter until a “90’s would be embarrassed” flagrant was assessed to Simmons for trying to stop a John Collins alley-oop attempt while seemingly helping to keep him upright.

From there, Atlanta would push Philadelphia to only a two-point lead entering the fourth, 82-80.

Both teams came out firing in the fourth quarter with Shake Milton burying a 3-pointer to help Philadelphia take a 92-88 lead before the faucet was cutoff. A near three-minute scoring drought was unclogged by Young floating his way to two-points. Soon, two assists to his colleagues put Atlanta ahead 94-92.

A game of runs would end the same. The teams traded spurts, blended with dizzying offense and one team’s superstar seemingly having it and the other appearing to labor in a way that many fans would hope a three-day break would have helped alleviate. A Young assist in exchange for an Embiid rebound would seemingly be the difference as the two traded attempts.

Ultimately, Young prevailed as an Embiid missed layup ended with Young sinking two free-throws and a Curry desperation heave coming up short as Doc Rivers put the ball in Milton’s hands to push it rather than Simmons. The ball careened off the rim and Atlanta escaped with the 103-100 victory.

Joel Embiid struggled, shooting 0-for-12 in the second half, as the Sixers drop Game 4 in Atlanta. Here are the grades from a series-tying loss.

C+. . C. 76ers. JOEL EMBIID

36 mins | 17 pts | 21 reb | 4 ast | 0 stl | 0 blk | 4 TO | 4-20 FG | 1-4 3PT| 8-8 FT | 3 PF | +0 |

Embiid was both awful and impressive. His box score efficiency was terrible and yet the raw numbers are a reminder of his presence. He labored, limped, and fought. Tonight, he didn’t have it. Tomorrow needs to be tailored to recovery. A healthy Embiid wins the series.

BEN SIMMONS. B+. . PG. 76ers

36 mins | 11 pts | 12 reb | 9 ast | 0 stl | 2 blk | 0 TO | 5-10 FG | 0-0 3PT| 1-5 FT | 3 PF | +0 |

Simmons played as he always does. He came up one assist shy of a triple-double, left fans wanting more, and delivered an excellent performance. His write-ups are nearly set in stone at this point. Yet, despite Young’s gargantuan box score, Simmons greatest value is often underwritten in a traditional box. He is a star and has played as such.


39 mins | 20 pts | 5 reb | 2 ast | 0 stl | 1 blk | 1 TO | 8-15 FG | 2-3 3PT| 2-2 FT | 1 PF | -8 |

Harris felt almost victim-like in this game. He delivered good numbers on great shooting and is often trying to guard up or chase frantically on the defensive end given Atlanta’s depth and ability to provide many different lineup configurations. Harris is often called upon to be a moving fulcrum for the Philadelphia offense when Embiid rests. Tonight, Embiid didn’t rest but missed shots. Harris wasn’t Michael Jordan demanding the ball, but he wasn’t as passive as lazy narrative might insist.

76ers. SETH CURRY. A-. . SG

35 mins | 17 pts | 2 reb | 3 ast | 0 stl | 1 blk | 2 TO | 7-10 FG | 3-6 3PT| 0-1 FT | 1 PF | +4 |

An excellent Curry game. As long as fans don’t harbor foolish expectations for him on the defensive end, then his value can be appreciated. He shot great and his off-the-dribble game has become a real problem for other teams. So often he doesn’t shoot or get an assist, but he attacks within his space and perturbs future defenders from simply sprinting to the three-point line. The nuance is subtle but has provided tremendous value.

76ers. DWIGHT HOWARD. B+. . C

12 mins | 7 pts | 10 reb | 0 ast | 0 stl | 0 blk | 2 TO | 3-3 FG | 0-0 3PT| 1-2 FT | 3 PF | -3 |

Howard threw down explosive dunks and let his hometown faithful hear it. He truly is a high-energy backup at this point in his career and probably would foul out before ever playing 36 minutes, but it’s hard to find a better, less conventional sparkplug off the bench than Howard.

Philadelphia was the better team tonight who simply had the less healthy appearing superstar. Microcosms that have worried Philadelphia fans all year reared their ugly heads and yet they were right there to take a commanding 3-1 lead.

The offense sputtered, but it was different. The defense was tremendous. As @WorldWideWob put it, these series are going to prove less about superstars and more about attrition. Rest up big fella, Philadelphia is going to need you.

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