Embiid’s Injury, Hack-a-Ben, More Observations from Game 4 Loss
What a weird and wild night in Washington, D.C.
With Joel Embiid forced to leave the game early and Ben Simmons in foul trouble, the Sixers were unable to end the Wizards’ season after a 122-114 loss Monday night at Capital One Arena. Washington was able to stave off elimination, but the Sixers still maintain a 3-1 series lead.
Here are observations from a bizarre and costly loss.
Embiid Injures Knee
Game 4 started off similarly to the last two games of the series. The Sixers got whatever they wanted offensively, including Embiid. He was able to get starting center Daniel Gafford in foul trouble less than four minutes in. Alex Len, who relieved Gafford, picked up two fouls in less than two minutes.
Then with 4:43 remaining in the first quarter, Embiid drove to the basket and was met by Robin Lopez. On Lopez’s block, Embiid hit the floor awkwardly and appeared to reach for his back.
Embiid remained in the game until there were 36.5 seconds left in the first quarter. After subbing out, Embiid immediately went back to the locker room. He did not return to the bench in the first half. At halftime, the Sixers ruled the MVP finalist out with right knee soreness.
As far as this series goes, the Sixers should still be able to take care of business and win one more game, even if Embiid misses time. The much bigger concern is Embiid’s health for the rest of the postseason. The Sixers’ playoff run won’t last very long if the All-Star big man has a prolonged absence.
We all saw it coming.
Simmons missed his first nine free throws of the series coming into Game 4. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks didn’t even make it a secret pregame.
And in the first quarter, after Simmons missed a free throw on an and-one earlier to make it 10 straight misses, we saw Washington go Hack-a-Ben. It might’ve lit a spark under Simmons who finally got one to go down. He missed the second.
The bigger issue for Simmons was the fouls called on him. He was whistled for his third with 4:57 remaining in the second and forced to sit to close the half. Then, just 12 seconds into the third, Simmons was whistled for his fourth.
With Embiid already out, Simmons getting into foul trouble was the last thing the Sixers could afford. For a playoff game, the officials didn’t seem to be letting much go for either team.
Even if Doc Rivers had the notion to go to Simmons at the five instead of using Mike Scott at that stage, it would have been a precarious situation. Simmons eventually did run some at the five as the Sixers mounted a comeback. He was a better option there as both Scott and Dwight Howard struggled.
Brooks went back to the strategy as the Sixers launched a furious comeback. Simmons was able to just make 3 of 6 as he was intentionally fouled on three straight possessions. On the night, Simmons made just 5 of 11 on the night overall. Simply put, that’s not good enough.
The Furk and Maxey Show
With one All-Star in the locker room and the other in foul trouble, the Sixers could’ve used an All-Star caliber performance from Tobias Harris. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t Harris’ night.
Harris had been outstanding through three games, averaging 25.3 points while shooting at an extremely efficient rate. What Harris had done so well is attack mismatches against the Wizards' smaller lineups. Harris missed a couple good early looks at the rim and shots he’d been making.
As the game went on, it just seemed like Harris was out of sorts. When he’s going well, Harris is excellent at using his frame to get to his spots on the floor. With Embiid and Simmons not on the floor, it was more difficult to do so with the Wizards giving him more attention.
Harris finished with 21 points on just 8 of 24 from the field.
Washington had managed to build a lead as large as 14 and had a 12-point advantage heading into the fourth. The Sixers were led by somewhat unlikely sparks in Furkan Korkmaz and Tyrese Maxey.
After playing just 21 seconds in the first half, Korkmaz played a huge part in the Sixers’ comeback. The Turkish guard scored seven points and provided energy on both ends. Maxey continues to look like a rotational mainstay. The rookie guard was huge in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the period.
Veteran George Hill also played a big role, scoring 14 points.
Their effort eventually led to the Sixers tying the game, but the Sixers were unable to finish the job. If nothing else, this was an encouraging outing by the Sixers’ bench.