Ben Simmons Says Playoff FT Issues are 'Definitely, I Think Mental' After Game 5 Loss

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJune 17, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons wipes his face after missing a pair of free-throws during the first half of Game 5 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Ben Simmons might be thinking too much at the free-throw line.

"Definitely, I think, mental," he said of his struggles at the stripe during the Philadelphia 76ers' 109-106 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of their second-round playoff series on Wednesday, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

"Obviously I got to knock down free throws and step up and do that, but it is what it is," Simmons added when asked about being benched in the fourth quarter of a game he shot 4-of-14 from the free-throw line. "Coach's decision."

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press noted Simmons has now missed 45 free throws in these playoffs, which is more than the Hawks, Phoenix Suns and Brooklyn Nets. He also became the first player in the league to miss 10 free throws in a game this season.

Frankly, his shooting was just one of the problems for the 76ers as they blew a 26-point lead and fell behind 3-2 in the series.

The bench was abysmal and let the Hawks climb back into the game, setting the stage for Trae Young's dominance in crunch time. Philadelphia didn't have an answer for the guard as he poured in 13 points in the final five minutes to lead his team to victory.

Tobias Harris, who is often one of the primary facilitators for the 76ers, was also just 2-of-11 from the field.

Perhaps the biggest concern was that Joel Embiid and Seth Curry were the only two players on the team to even make a field goal in the second half. That is not a sustainable formula for a single playoff game, let alone a championship run as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Still, Simmons' free throws have become a significant issue. The Hawks even fouled him intentionally early in their comeback, which stalled the 76ers' momentum and helped keep the visitors close enough for their late charge.

If he doesn't fix it, Simmons may be watching more fourth-quarter action from the sidelines.