You can’t ask for much more than your MVP with a point-blank shot at the rim to win the game.

Unfortunately for the Sixers, it was a rough night for Joel Embiid, who missed a potential game-winning layup in a 103-100 Game 4 loss to the Hawks at State Farm Arena Monday night. The series goes back to Philadelphia Wednesday tied 2-2.

The Sixers led by 13 at the half but failed to capitalize on a mix of poor Atlanta shooting and their own good defense.

Here are observations from the loss.

Embiid Gutting it Out

It was a weird night for Embiid. He got off to a slow start, missing his first four shots. Then he went back to the locker room and concerned the Sixers’ brass enough that GM Elton Brand accompanied him.

Embiid emerged a few minutes later, checked back in, and stepped into a three on the wing that went down. Exhale. Embiid turned the tide of the game when he came back in. He was a plus-16 in the first half, helping the Sixers build a 13-point halftime lead.

Embiid struggled again to start the second half, missing his first six shots of the third. The Sixers’ offense as a whole was bad and Embiid didn’t have his usual magic to continually bail them out. He was 0 for 12 in the second half.

Embiid did offer some stellar defense down the stretch. He was stout at the rim and tremendous defending Trae Young pick-and-rolls. He also collected 21 rebounds.

With a chance to win the game with just seconds on the clock, Embiid missed a layup after a pick-and-roll with Tobias Harris. It’s a shot Embiid makes on almost any other night.

Alas, it just wasn’t his night. He finished 4 of 20 for 17 points and there has to be a level of concern for his health.

Needed More From Big Three

Aside from Embiid, it was an uneven game for the Sixers’ other stars.

Much like he did in the third quarter of Game 3, Simmons set the tone in this one. While the Sixers got off a poor start as a team, Simmons provided energy on both ends. He was seemingly everywhere, putting up eight points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, and no turnovers in the first half.

Again, free throws are haunting Simmons. Coming into the postseason, Simmons was a 65.3 percent free throw shooter in the playoffs. He was at 35.4 this postseason went just 1 of 5 on the night in a close game.

Tobias Harris was a steady hand early, scoring 14 first-half points. He was especially good when the offense ran through with the all-bench unit.

Seth Curry’s aggressiveness was also huge early. When the offense was scuffling in the first quarter, Curry scored eight straight points. He scored 13 points and went 3 of 5 from three.

While that trio played a big part in the Sixers building their halftime lead, none of them had a particularly good second half. As mentioned, the offense just looked stagnant. They shot 32.4 percent in the second half.

The trio of Simmons, Curry and Harris combined for just 13 points after halftime. That wasn't going to get it done with Embiid struggling.

Defense Wins … Normally

You can’t pin this loss on the way the Sixers defended. The Hawks shot just 33.3 percent from the field in the first half. They weren’t that much better in the second half, hitting just 40 percent.

On a night when you hold your opponent to 36.6 percent from the field, you have to win. When you hold your opponent's most dangerous perimeter players – Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic – to a combined 17 of 50, you have to win.

Young did manage to dish out 18 assists, but for the most part the combination of Simmons and Matisse Thybulle – named first- and second-team All-Defense Monday, respectively – kept him from going off. Young also did appear to be nursing an injury to his right shooting shoulder.

There’s really just no excuse for losing a game when your defense is this good. The Sixers may very well win this series, but if they don’t, this will surely be a game they look back on as a missed opportunity.

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