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Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Sixers fall as Hawks advance Eastern Conference finals

No shot.

No shot.
Illustration: Getty Images

I admit that I fell into the trap of using every NBA playoff game as a referendum on the legacy of every NBA star. Things are never that simple, and winning a championship is hard. Especially in the NBA, where it’s an actual referendum on how your team is built. It’s not hockey where the bounces just go your way for a month, or baseball, when your bullpen can’t give up a hit for a couple weeks. Playoffs are more “you are what your record says you are” than the NBA.

But games within that, well, they can go any direction. Maybe the shots aren’t falling, maybe the refs won’t give you a call for one night. That doesn’t mean one should swing the hammer after one game. Adjustments get made, things change, always best to try and see the big picture.

Unless you’re Ben Simmons. In which case, you’re fucked.

I went in on Giannis after Game 5, and I’m still not sure beating the Nets without Kyrie Irving and half of James Harden at best is all that much of a benchmark. But whatever I and others went in on Giannis for, as Donovan pointed out yesterday – not guarding Durant, his lack of outside game, some buttery hands – he still found a way to drop 40 in Game 7. He looked for ways he could dominate, like going into the post. Whether he did every time or not, Giannis wanted to grab the moment and be the best for his team.

Simmons didn’t want any part of it. He might spend his whole career, make several All-Star teams, maybe even whispers for MVP one day if everything goes right for a season, and never live this down:

There’s not being effective, and then there’s being a complete non-entity. And it gets worse.

Embiid’s quote goes on to mention other possessions and other factors in the loss, but it’s pretty telling that he also didn’t not mention Simmons’s complete capitulation of the situation. Yeah, emotions are raw after a Game 7 loss, especially when you’re the No. 1 seed and the rest of the draw has really opened up for anyone who wants to take it. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if Doc Rivers is looking for anyone to toss overboard to save his own ass. But perhaps that’s when you’re most honest and the PR staff hasn’t gotten to you yet to coach what you say.

The 76ers are learning lessons so many others have learned, which is you have to scout yourself better than anyone else. But that also becomes harder for anyone when so much is invested in players like Simmons. It’s not just money, and the Sixers went farther than most with their overhyped and frankly cumbersome “process.” They needed Simmons to work. They needed all of it to work. And they needed to give it all the runway they could to see if it would justify all the noisy horseshit they put their fans through.

But then it didn’t. And now everyone knows it didn’t. And now not flipping him before the league found out what they really had will probably be this version of the Sixers’ legacy.

It’s one thing to just have something missing from your game, like Simmons’ inability to hit a shot outside of belching range. It’s another to just let the moment pass you by, and yet another to actively hide from it. That’s what these 4th quarter stats and that passed up dunk speaks to. It’s the striker who makes sure his runs go offside because he lacks confidence and doesn’t want to miss again. It’s the hitter just hoping for a walk.

You pass to the other guy when it’s the best option. When you do it because you’re desperate for someone else to carry you, it speaks too loudly. Clearly Embiid and Rivers heard it.

Robin Lehner’s motivation

The latest chapter in the saga “Robin Lehner Is a Dipshit”:

You know Lehner is so far up his own ass that he’s come around again that he can’t see the hypocrisy of this statement. It’s almost artistic in the way it contradicts itself. Elegant, in its way.

God of hammers

Anyway, let’s end on Jakob Glesnes’s goal for Philadelphia Union yesterday afternoon:

The Brits have a term for that, it’s “Thunderbastard.” No need to explain it when you put the two of these together. This thing doesn’t hit the crossbar so much as assault it before bouncing in.

Glesnes is making this something of a habit, as he did this before the pandemic last year:

They say Glesnes is Norwegian. Someone should check if he’s not Asgardian.

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