- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons passed up an open dunk in Sunday’s Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, but his coach and star teammate didn’t waste any time taking shots after the loss. 

Coach Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid had some telling postgame comments — both appearing to take not-so-subtle jabs at Simmons. Simmons had zero points in the fourth quarter — for the fourth straight game. And with three minutes left while trailing by two, the point guard gave up an open dunk as it looked like he wanted to avoid the possibility of getting fouled. 

“I’ll be honest, I thought the turning point was when we — I don’t know how to say it — I thought the turning point was just, we had an open shot and we made one free throw, and we missed the other and then they came down and scored,” Embiid said, referring to Simmons’ hesitation. “And we didn’t get a good possession on the other end. Trae [Young] came back and he made a three and then from there down four, it’s on me. 

“I turned the ball over and tried to make something happen from the perimeter. But I thought that was the turning point.”

There’s a reason why Simmons looked to pass rather than just dunk it. The former No. 1 overall pick is a horrific free throw shooter. Simmons shot just 34.2% from the line in the playoffs, and it was a problem for Philadelphia the entire postseason.

Rivers, meanwhile, also questioned Simmons‘ play. Normally a staunch defender of Simmons, Rivers backed away when asked if Simmons could still be a leading point guard on a championship team. 

“I don’t know that question or the answer to that right now,” Rivers said. “I don’t know the answer to that.”

Rivers also suggested that Simmons would have to work on his offensive game in the gym this summer. 

Simmons scored just five points as the No.1-seeded 76ers fell to the fifth-seeded Hawks

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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