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76ers' Doc Rivers Says Ben Simmons' Free-Throw Struggles Are 'A Mental Thing'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJune 18, 2021

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons told reporters his free-throw struggles were more mental than physical following the team's shocking 109-106 loss to the Atlanta Hawks during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Wednesday, a game that saw the team blow a 26-point lead. 

Dave McMenamin @mcten

Ben Simmons, who was 4-for-14 on FTs in Gm5, is now 22-for-67 on FTs this postseason. "Definitely, I think, mental," he said. When asked about being subbed out in the 4th: "Obviously I got to knock down free throws and step up and do that, but it is what it is. Coach's decision"

On Thursday, head coach Doc Rivers agreed:

Kyle Neubeck @KyleNeubeck

Rivers on Simmons’ free throw issues: “It is a mental thing, we all know that.” Says that you can try to work around it with things like a routine and such, but, “It’s hard to do right now, we just got to keep him working on it, and that’s what he’s doing.”

The issue isn't just from the free-throw stripe, though. Simmons seems to become far less aggressive when those struggles emerge. He attempted just four field goals in Game 1, and just one in the second half while the Sixers had their meltdown. 

Three times this preseason he's attempted five or fewer shots, as both the Hawks and Washington Wizards have resorted to purposefully fouling him to shoot free throws. When the free throws aren't falling, Simmons seems less apt to attack and put himself in a position where he might get fouled. 

And that's one reason why the top-seeded Sixers are one loss away from vacation.

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