GRADES: Sixers beat themselves in Game 7 loss to Hawks

Joel Embiid, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers concluded their season as they fell to the Atlanta Hawks 103-96 in game seven of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Wells Fargo Arena.

A back-and-forth affair the entire game ended in bitter disappointment for the Philadelphia faithful as Trae Young’s guile mixed with Atlanta’s depth to overtake Joel Embiid’s brute nature and the top-heavy Philadelphia squad.

The game itself featured 20 lead changes, 19 ties, and neither team surmounting a lead exceeding seven points. On the heels of the other Eastern Conference semifinal, this game felt ugly.

Young shot 5-23 from the field while Embiid turned the ball over eight times, including the play that seemingly ended the season for Philadelphia. Yet, it was Simmons who dominated the headlines as he again didn’t shoot in the fourth quarter. The game can’t be analyzed without properly understanding that Philadelphia was incapable of hunting Young on switches in large part because their all-star lead guard became afraid to so much as look at the rim.

Many articles will be written, many trade concepts drummed up, and much focus on the post-game pressers where Doc Rivers and Embiid were more indicting Simmons than protecting him, but Philadelphia still had a chance to win.

The first quarter started with Atlanta grabbing a small lead. Philadelphia then traded baskets throughout the quarter in route to a 28-25 lead entering the second.

Philadelphia’s biggest problem became ever more apparent in game seven. If Embiid wasn’t dominant, then Philadelphia was going to have trouble manifesting points. A George Hill and-one was the only field goal for Philadelphia in nearly the first 4:30 of the second quarter, despite the starters patrolling the floor.

A historically slow start for Young allowed Philadelphia to remain close even though this would go on to become the Kevin Huerter game for Atlanta. He was their most consistent offensive threat on the night scoring 27 points.

Because of both teams struggles offensively, the game remained close heading to the half with Atlanta leading 48-46.

The third quarter was more of the same as Tobias Harris tried to help Embiid carry the load. Two separate 6-0 Atlanta runs helped pave the way for them to take a five-point lead into the fourth, 76-71.

With one quarter remaining, Philadelphia trailed by five at home in game seven.

The quarter began exactly as Philadelphia would have liked. A quick seven points by Embiid helped give Philadelphia the lead as Harris extended it to four points, 81-77, due to Atlanta failing to make a basket until Danilo Gallinari canned a three-pointer with 7:10 remaining.

A Huerter two-pointer gave Atlanta an 88-86 lead with just under four remaining when the play most people focused on postgame would occur. Simmons received the ball on the low block, his defender reached for the steal and was out of position, Simmons turns with the opportunity to dunk on the much smaller Young, but instead dished to Thybulle who was lucky to get free throws from the excursion.

The result was one made free throw.

The play, which will inevitably be used against Simmons for a long time to come, felt bad. It looked bad. Yet, Philadelphia still clung to a chance.

A 5-0 run by Atlanta following the sequence then paved way for Philadelphia’s own 5-0 run. A 93-92 game with just under a minute remaining.

Thybulle, a defensive stalwart all year, lunged to stop the red hot Huerter on a three-point attempt but caught him in the head and sent Huerter to the line where he buried all three attempts, 96-92.

Embiid was given the ball at the high post with four shooters spreading the floor as Shake Milton entered for Simmons, but a Gallinari steal from behind resulted in an easy dunk and essentially iced the game. From there, it was just free throw practice for Atlanta mercifully ending 103-96.

Grades from the Sixers’ final game of the 2020-21 season.

. PG. 76ers. BEN SIMMONS. D+

36 mins | 5 pts | 8 reb | 13 ast | 1 stl | 0 blk | 2 TO | 2-4 FG | 0-0 3PT| 1-2 FT | 4 PF | +1 |

It felt like Simmons would be on the wrong side of history no matter how this game panned out. Games 4-6 had shown who he is in the half-court with Embiid on the floor. Young’s biggest question mark heading into the postseason was if he could defend. After two series, the question still feels wholly unanswered because he hasn’t been hunted. If a 6-10 guard can’t attack Young, then he simply can’t attack. There are already too many drastic overreactions and simplifications being hurled in Simmons’ direction. He is still a three-time all-star and DPOY runner-up. He just doesn’t fit that well with this squad. There will be time for overreactions and course corrections. It isn’t now. He was awful and he carries the burden for why they are going home.

B-. . C. 76ers. JOEL EMBIID

41 mins | 31 pts | 11 reb | 3 ast | 1 stl | 1 blk | 8 TO | 11-21 FG | 2-5 3PT| 7-10 FT | 3 PF | -2 |

Embiid has been hobbled the whole series and still was the best player on the floor. His dominance in the paint and skill navigating around it is truly commendable. He has grown as a passer. Still, no one is going to confuse him with Nikola Jokic. Embiid’s turnovers were a problem in the series and ultimately proved fatal in the final minute. The big man gets some well-deserved rest this offseason and it will be interesting to see how Daryl Morey surrounds him this offseason.

C-. . PF. 76ers. TOBIAS HARRIS

45 mins | 24 pts | 14 reb | 4 ast | 2 stl | 0 blk | 2 TO | 8-24 FG | 2-7 3PT| 6-6 FT | 4 PF | -6 |

Harris took a major step forward this year. He has shown that he is one of the best third men in the league. Outside of Brooklyn, Philadelphia fans will tell you Harris is every bit as capable as any other team’s third guy. He isn’t the perfect second option. Harris was forced to take on a bigger role than he ought to. Look for him to shine when being allowed to work off another great wing player. He was just asked to more than he should tonight.

SETH CURRY. B. . SG. 76ers

31 mins | 16 pts | 2 reb | 2 ast | 1 stl | 1 blk | 1 TO | 6-10 FG | 3-5 3PT| 1-2 FT | 5 PF | -2 |

Speaking of great wing players. Curry continued to be the second-best option for Philadelphia down the stretch. A major pick-up and he showed up when it mattered most. Curry will always be limited in several aspects of his game, but what he does well is crucial to Philadelphia’s success and he showed it.


25 mins | 8 pts | 5 reb | 0 ast | 1 stl | 1 blk | 0 TO | 3-5 FG | 1-2 3PT| 1-2 FT | 1 PF | -10 |

With Simmons’ rumors swirling, many packages will be built with another young player attached. A Philadelphia fan favorite, Thybulle hopefully will get to stick around. He wasn’t great tonight as navigating the Young pick-and-roll is a nightmare matchup for anyone. He still plays hard and knows his role. It was a seemingly average game for Thybulle which unfortunately saw the bench once again get dominated.

For Atlanta, they will press onward and face the Milwaukee Bucks in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday at Fiserv Forum.

For Philadelphia, the previous offseason blueprint was to run it with the three stars and get shooters to space the floor for Embiid. It mostly worked.

Philadelphia fans will and should be disappointed. The problem was that one of the stars can’t reach his potential in Philadelphia and thus became a pariah for fourth-quarter offensive creation. Simmons is great and someone will recognize that. Philadelphia will likely look to move him for the best perimeter scorer/creator it can find.

It feels like “The Process” will be over for Simmons and despite the horrid ending, that will be a melancholy day. From here, in Daryl we trust.

What must change next season. dark. Next