Observations From Sixers’ Heartbreaking Game 7 Loss
The Sixers and Hawks faced off one final time Sunday night, with the winner moving on to face the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals. Sadly for the Sixers, this game was the end of the road for them this season. Atlanta picks up their third road win of the series in game 7 by a final of 103-96. Here are some observations from the devastating loss.
In a game 7 situation, rotations are typically thrown out the window. We saw Milwaukee and Brooklyn pretty much abandon their bench units for the latter half of their series. With everything riding on the outcome of one game, the key players need to see extended minutes.
Doc Rivers has been loyal to a deep rotation all postseason, and that did not change in Sunday's series finale. Even with the season hanging in the balance, the Sixers went ten players deep.
On top of going deep into the bench, there were also some questionable decisions on rotations. One move in particular that stands out is Shake Milton starting the fourth quarter after not playing a single minute all night.
Part of this was due to the lack of production from the supporting cast but still doesn't make much sense. Seth Curry has been one of the hottest players to close this series and was only on the floor for 30 minutes Sunday night.
When push comes to shove, the starters should have been used heavily to close this game, even more so when the second unit is giving such minimal production.
In the postseason, attacking weak defenders becomes a common theme. This was a major point of emphasis for the Hawks in Sunday's game 7. Kevin Huerter went on to have a big scoring night because of his ability to attack a mismatch.
Whether it was Furkan Korkmaz or Seth Curry, the Hawks bullied the Sixers' weaker defenders. Down the stretch, Trae Young was initiating the pick-and-roll to get Curry switched on to him.
Atlanta did a much better job getting the mismatches they wanted on the offensive end. All series long, the Sixers failed to make Trae Young work on the defensive end despite him being a glaring mismatch.
While Curry is able to counteract this targeting with his offense, the same can not be said for Korkmaz. Rivers continued to roll Korkmaz out there despite him constantly being targeted by the Hawks' guards.
Taking care of the ball is a necessity in the postseason, and even more so in a game 7. With each possession being so important, teams cannot afford to be careless.
The Sixers have had turnover issues in the past, and they reappeared on Sunday night. They ended up turning the ball over 17 times in game 7, seven more times than the Hawks. Multiple careless turnovers led to easy baskets for the Hawks.
Putting it simply, a team cannot cough the ball up to that magnitude and expect to win a playoff game. We saw a similar carelessness in game 1 of this series, and things did not end well for the Sixers.
Eight of the Sixers' turnovers came from Joel Embiid. The MVP runner-up did everything in his power to not have his season end tonight but sometimes did more harm than good. Cross-court passing and excess dribbling led to multiple empty possessions.
This inability to handle the ball is inexcusable for a team like the Sixers. They have been in high-pressure situations like this before and understand the value of each trip down the floor.
Ben Simmons' offensive disappearance
Ben Simmons' struggles were the main storyline of this season. Along with his inability to hit free throws, he refused to assert himself offensively. Simmons failed to crack double-digit points in the final three games of this series.
There is one play that is likely going to be brought up for weeks. Simmons found himself with a clear path to the rim, and instead of shooting, he passed to Matisse Thybulle. While he did draw a foul, Thybulle only hit one of the two free throws.
As the lead facilitator, Simmons needs the ball in his hands to run the offense. When he banishes himself to standing under the rim, it severely hurts the offense. Hawks' defenders barely hung around Simmons at times because he was such a non-factor.
This is truly a catastrophic ending to the Sixers' season. With how things unfolded around the playoffs, the Sixers had a golden opportunity to make a run at a title. Now, the team will have to have some very tough conversations this offseason.