Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons Turn in an Abysmal Game 5 Performance
The Philadelphia 76ers traveled back up North on Tuesday to go to war for a critical Game 5 against the Toronto Raptors. Despite the series being tied up with two wins apiece, the victor in the Game 5 matchup would clearly steal all of the momentum moving forward. If the Sixers were to win, they could take it back to Philly where they would hope to get a healthy Joel Embiid. If they were to lose - well, the Raptors keep the advantage of being in the lead and remain as the hot hand after defeating the Sixers on the road this past Sunday.
In all reality, Game 5 was set to be the latest game that could be viewed as the most crucial game for the Sixers since the early 2000s. Knowing that Jimmy Butler has lived up to his expectations of being a dominant veteran in the postseason already, the Sixers needed more than just a win on Tuesday to feel good about the series moving forward. The Sixers needed a big game from their young superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Unfortunately, the Sixers left Game 5 with absolutely nothing to feel right about regarding the young stars.
Ben Simmons, who has shown flashes of his 2017-2018 playoff campaign thus far had a chance to show that he can be more than just a defensive distraction for Kawhi Leonard. Heading into Game 5, Simmons was averaging only 10 points-per-game, and under five assists. In other words, Simmons simply hasn't been his usual self. The former Rookie of the Year has been quiet on the offensive side of things during the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, and nothing changed about this outcome on Tuesday night.
When it was all said and done, Simmons wrapped up the blowout loss with seven points, taking five total shots. Not only was Simmons not existent when it came to scoring, but he was also sloppy with the ball. After only turning the ball over seven times in this entire series, Simmons lost the ball five times on Tuesday alone. Once again, Simmons fails to impress for the Sixers as he's virtually non-existent on the offensive side of the ball in the second round of the postseason.
As for Sixers' center Joel Embiid, he was still dealing with an upper respiratory infection on Tuesday. After turning in his playoff career-low on Sunday of 11 points, Embiid didn't exactly bounce back with a promising performance. After taking ten shots from the field, the Sixers' big man managed to drain 13 points before getting benched early in the fourth quarter for the remainder of the night.
Although his Game 4 performance was bad offensively, at least Embiid still had flashes on defense. However, his Game 5 performance was terrible on both sides of the ball. In 31 minutes of playing time, Embiid was a minus-15. It's clear that his illness has played a significant part in his struggles, but the Sixers are coming out of this series recognizing Embiid's on-court efforts as a leading factor as to why they are currently trailing.
Can the two young stars lead the Sixers to a bounce-back win on Thursday to force a Game 7? Only time will tell. But if Simmons and Embiid come out looking the way they have for a majority of this series, there's going to be some serious struggles during Game 6 that are followed by some major question marks heading into next season.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for South Jersey's 97.3 ESPN. You can follow Justin on Twitter: @JGrasso_