Joel Embiid was not himself, looking gassed, admitting his knee was bothering him, and shooting 0-of-12 in the second half of Philadelphia’s Game 4 loss, including coming up short on a lay-up to take the lead with 8.8 seconds remaining.
With Embiid struggling, it was time for the 76ers other All-Star Ben Simmons to step up and… not so much. Simmons finished the game with 11 points on 10 shots. He had just three points in the second half.
“I definitely should’ve been more aggressive and attacked more,” Simmons said via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think the spacing was a little off this game. We didn’t get to our spacing. We weren’t as aggressive that second half.”
Simmons was part of that lack of aggression. However, he did contribute to the game, spending most of it guarding Trae Young, a taxing job — and holding Young to 25 points on 8-of-26 shooting. Simmons also helped push the pace and had solid first-half numbers — eight points, 11 rebounds, seven assists — but he was part of the fading Sixers in the second half.
Tuesday, Doc Rivers stuck up for his player and pushed back on the idea Simmons was not aggressive enough.
Here's the full Rivers answer pushing back on Simmons saying he needed to be more aggressive: pic.twitter.com/nPMuluQd0p
— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) June 15, 2021
This is exactly what Rivers should do as a coach.
Then he needs to go over to Simmons after shootaround on Wednesday and tell him to be more aggressive. Embiid is playing through a partially torn meniscus, and it appears to be catching up with him. If that happens, the Sixers will need a lot more out of Simmons and Tobias Harris to get past the Hawks, not to mention the Bucks or Nets next round. Simmons himself seems to understand the urgency.