The Sixers suffered one of their uglier losses in recent memory in Game Four of this series. The offense stalled in the second half headlined by an 0-12 shooting performance from Joel Embiid and 0 field-goal attempts from Ben Simmons. In total, the Sixers scored just 38 points in the second half and a missed late-game layup at the hands of Joel Embiid gave the Sixers a 103-100 loss.
This was a major blown opportunity for the Sixers as they once led by 18 in the game and had chances to win despite having a fairly sloppy game. The blown opportunity to go up 3-1 on the Hawks is now out the window and the teams will travel back to Philly with the series tied at 2.
The Health of Joel Embiid
Concerns around Embiid’s meniscus tear continued to grow after game four. Joel was forced to take a trip to the locker room in the first half and his rhythm seemingly was out the window after the return. The MVP runner-up deserves a ton of credit for continuing to solider through the injury and play the best as his body will allow him. However, Embiid raised concerns when he spoke with a slightly bleak attitude for the first time throughout this stretch.
Despite having one of the worst games of his career, Embiid ended with 17 points and 21 rebounds and made several impressive plays on the defensive end. The Sixers sit 10 wins away from a championship and Joel Embiid remains determined to stay on the court for the remainder of the playoff run. The newly crowned second-team All-NBA member will once again be listed as questionable and have to go to his pregame routine before being granted official clearance. The question seems more likely to be how much Embiid will have in the tank rather than if he will play, but the Sixers will need a performance more in tune with his MVP caliber play in order to regain control of the series.
As long as Embiid is able to play, expect the Sixers to look to play through him just as normal. He has proven to be able to bounce back over the years and it is rare for him to have two bad games in a row. The Big Man is averaging 30.8 points and 13 rebounds per game in the series and will be ready for a statement performance. Embiid has often talked about being fueled by doubters or adversity, and he will be on center stage in game five- right where he belongs.
Home Court Advantage
After dropping the previous game in Atlanta, it will be refreshing for the Sixers to return to the Wells Fargo Center. Over the past few seasons, the Sixers have gained attention for their terrific record at home. This season the team went 29-7 at home during the regular season and are 4-1 so far in the postseason.
One of the biggest keys to securing the first seed in the East was so that the Sixers would have home-court advantage straight through the playoffs. With 2 out of the next 3 games taking place in the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers simply need to take care of business at home in order to ensure that they advance to the conference finals.
Look for the crowd to bring energy tonight and for the Sixers to ride that momentum. The Sixers won each of their victories by 16 points while the Hawks two wins have come by a combined 7 point margin. The team has shown its ability to respond throughout the season and tonight is a great chance for a statement win.
Sixers need to find help outside of Embiid
While the majority of the attention (rightfully) goes to the play of Joel Embiid, the Sixers need other players to step up as well. He is certainly capable of doing it for stretches, but Embiid cannot be expected to carry the entire offense on a nightly basis. Especially when he is struggling, the Sixers must find other reliable scoring options in order for the team to have a chance to win.
Led by 8 straight points by Shake Milton, the Sixers bench was able to keep the team afloat while the starters were on the bench. Despite being able to hold the lead while they were in, the reserves accounted for just 25 total points and (excluding Dwight Howard) shot just 33% from the field. After shooting 1-5 from beyond the arc, Matisse Thybulle appeared skittish with the ball and passed up several open looks as the game progressed. While his defensive ability will continue to be the motivation for getting him in the game, it is important for Thybulle to be a willing shooter when he gets the proper looks in order for the proper spacing to continue.
Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons combined for just 37 points in the previous loss and shot 13-25 from the field. It is more concerning that Harris attempted just 6 shots and Simmons did not attempt a field goal in the second half. Tobias Harris has proved to be able to step up as the closer on multiple occasions this season but was nowhere to be found in crunch time during game four.
It was a team loss in game four and the blame should not fully fall on the shoulders of Joel Embiid. The more production that occurs outside of their superstar, the smaller the load is that falls on Embiid. The Sixers open up at 6 point favorites heading into tonight’s game and are in need of a statement win. Expect the team to respond to the poor performance in the previous game and put the Hawks to bed early in this matchup. The game will tip off at 7:30 and prove to be a crucial game in the series.
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