The Sixers were not who we thought they were. Despite the best record since 2001, a better-fitting supporting cast, and new coaching staff- the same issues plagued the Sixers as their season came to an unfortunate end at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks. In a game that may prove to be the end of The Process, the Sixers fell by a score of 103-96 in game seven on their own home court.
While it has become a theme for the Sixers to not play their best and end up on top of the scoreboard, they failed to fully capitalize in the first half. The Hawks and Sixers battled back and forth throughout the first period with neither team taking a lead larger than five points. Despite the infection energy from the crowd, the Hawks took a 48-46 lead into halftime.
The Sixers did a very good job with Trae Young in the first half and held him to 1-12 shooting from the field. Despite that, he tallied 9 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds. Kevin Huerter was the Hawks’ leading scorer with 12 points at the break.
As expected, Joel Embiid was all business from the start. He added 15 points and 6 rebounds but was a little careless with the ball and tallied 4 turnovers in the half. Tobias Harris and Seth Curry added 10 points apiece with the starters scoring all but 6 of the team’s points in the first half. Ben Simmons continued to show a disinterest on the offensive end and had 2 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds in the first half.
Building off the impressive game six, Doc Rivers turned to Tyrese Maxey as the first guy off the bench. In search of a needed spark, Maxey was a solid choice but the rookie was unable to fully find his stride. He ended the half with 0 points, 2 assists, and 1 rebound in 8 minutes of play. He also had the most obvious of a string of missed calls from referees as he went straight up in some textbook defense that was whistled for a foul.
The Sixers still could not find a way to come out of the hall sharp and it was more of the same to start the second half. Joel Embiid appeared cold and had two rare airballs in the third quarter. The Hawks extended their lead to five at the end of the third quarter as they led 76-71 heading into the fourth.
The game certainly felt as if it was slipping away with Doc Rivers continuing to be stubborn with his rotations. Tobias Harris was unable to fully get it going, the minutes with Dwight Howard were disappointing, and both Seth Curry and Ben Simmons reached 4 fouls in the quarter. While Trae Young was continued to be held in check, Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter each hit several difficult shots to keep the Hawks’ offense afloat.
In an effort to find a spark, Doc Rivers started Shake Milton at the beginning of the fourth quarter. 5 straight points from Joel Embiid forced an early timeout from the Hawks as the Sixers climbed back to even on the scoreboard. Shake clocked 5 minutes in the fourth quarter and came on to end the game as the Sixers desperately tried to find a way to win.
Despite Trae Young shooting 5 of 23 from the field, the Sixers were unable to get stops in the fourth quarter with Kevin Huerter doing his best Kobe Bryant impression down the stretch. Joel Embiid scored 11 of the Sixers 25 points in fourth quarter and also had a costly turnover in the final minute.
Ben Simmons was noticeably absent on the offensive end again and even passed up an open dunk in favor of a pass to Matisse Thybulle. The Hawks sent him to the line with 1:48 left in the game where Simmons bricked one of two from the charity stripe. In what may prove to be his final game in a Sixers uniform, Simmons ended with 5 points, 13 assists, and 8 rebounds. He was impactful on the defensive end but his offense continues to be an issue and hurt the Sixers down the stretch.
Ultimately the Sixers fell by a score of 103-96, putting an unfortunate end to the Sixers season. The Hawks will advance to the conference finals to take on the Milwaukee Bucks later in the week.
The Sixers find themselves at a major cross-roads for the first time in The Process era. Failing to make any real progress in chasing a championship has become increasingly disheartening and the fear that the Sixers have hit their peak with their current group has certainly set in. It seems fairly likely that this will be the final game that Ben Simmons wears a 76ers uniform in.
For the moment, the Sixers will rest in their sorrows and look toward the offseason. Daryl Morey will be faced with some tough questions as he looks to rebuild the roster in order to become true competitors. The season had a great amount of promise but ultimately fell short for the Philly franchise.
It was a disappointing effort in the series from start to finish for the Sixers. Despite setting the clearest path possible for themselves, they failed to play at a championship caliber level and crumbled to a Hawks team that they were expected to be better than. Give credit to the Hawks for not being afraid of the moment, but the Sixers have earned every bit of criticism that is being thrown their way.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire