The 76ers’ chances at sweeping the Wizards disappeared with every Ben Simmons free throw on Monday.
Philadelphia, looking to sweep the Wizards and move onto the second round of the NBA playoffs, saw that opportunity diminish after Joel Embiid left the game in the first quarter with a sore knee. Following Embiid’s exit, Washington targeted Simmons in the fourth quarter, choosing to send him to the free throw line in a new-age Hack-a-Shaq strategy.
Entering the game, Simmons was 0 for 9 from the charity stripe in the series. He was 1 of 3 in the game before the Wizards committed fully to fouling him in the fourth quarter. He split each of his four trips to the free throw line (4 for 8) to eventually end up 5 for 11 on the evening.
It ultimately resulted in Washington’s first win of the series, sending the game back to Philadelphia with a 122-114 win for the Wizards. The last time the Sixers swept a team was in 1985, against Milwaukee.
Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers scoffed at the notion he would remove Simmons from the floor as he continued struggling at the charity stripe:
“You want me to take Ben Simmons off the floor? No. He’s pretty good,” Rivers said. I’ll pass on that suggestion.”
Rivers also had no issues with the Wizards’ strategy to keep harassing the point guard, who entered the game shooting 61.3 percent from the free throw line.
“Obviously that’s what they’re going to do,” Rivers said. “That’s what they should do. And I’m OK with that.”
Despite his free throw struggles, Simmons finished the game with a double-double: 13 points and 12 rebounds. Tobias Harris led all 76ers with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Washington’s Bradley Beal had a game-high 27 points, while Russell Westbrook enjoyed another triple-double with 19 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists.
Simmons wasn’t the sole reason Philadelphia lost on Monday, but that didn’t stop Twitter from breaking out the jokes and hot takes:
Ben Simmons is walking to the free throw line like he’s being asked to clean his room
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) June 1, 2021
Painful to watch Ben Simmons missing free throws after being intentionally fouled. Doc can’t take him out – he’s a star, a defensive force. Doc would risk losing him psychologically. But Ben eventually must learn how to make 70% of his FTs under pressure. Or get subbed.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) June 1, 2021