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Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons does a lot of good things out on the basketball court. He is an elite defender, he is the one who helps the team get into their sets, and he has a huge impact on the game on a nightly basis despite not being a huge scorer.

However, in Wednesday’s 109-106 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5, a familiar issue popped up again in these playoffs.

Simmons shot just 4-for-14 from the foul line and he only scored eight points in the loss. The Hawks went to the Hack-a-Ben strategy again and the All-Star point guard could not step up and knock down the free throws which have been a familiar struggle in these playoffs.

“Definitely, I think mental,” said Simmons afterward. “We were up. We had it. I think we gave it to them.”

Atlanta went to the Hack-a-Ben strategy in the first half when the Sixers built a 26-point lead and Simmons shot 2-for-8 from the line in the first 24 minutes. Philadelphia was still able to build their lead so they were able to keep him in there. The fouls accumulated by Hawks shooters Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter were a big reason why coach Doc Rivers left him in the game.

“I would say the fouls in the first half actually helped us,” said Rivers. “We actually increased the lead when they were doing it and at the beginning of the third quarter, Bogdanovic, and Huerter had four and five fouls. So in a lot of ways, it came back and really, helped us. The missed free throws in the fourth hurt us.”

In the second half, Rivers had to make a decision. He took Simmons off the floor briefly as Atlanta went back to the hacking strategy.

“When Ben makes them, we get to keep him in, when he doesn’t, we can’t and that’s just the way it is,” said Rivers. “Some nights we still do if it’s working our way in the first half, we kept him in because we were actually increasing the lead and we felt like they were getting into foul trouble. Fourth quarter, you don’t really worry about foul trouble, so then you have to make them.”

Before the All-Star break, Simmons shot 67.1% from the foul line, and then after the break, he shot just 53.3% from the line. He then followed that up by shooting 35.7% from the line in Round 1 against the Washington Wizards and he is not 12-for-39 from the line in this series.

“I have no idea, but I gotta get it back,” said Simmons. “That’s on me.”

When asked about Rivers taking him off the floor, the All-Star said this: “Obviously, I got to knock down free throws and step up and do that. It is what it is, coach’s decision.”

Simmons also took only one shot again in the second half while finishing with four shot attempts total for the game. He has not been able to find any space to get aggressive out on the floor.

“I think we got too comfortable with that lead and slowed it down too much,” Simmons explained. “The spacing also. We’re not running as hard so I think we do those things, it’s going to open up and then give me my lanes to be aggressive.”

Philadelphia will now have to head to Atlanta facing elimination and try to get a win in a hostile environment.

This post originally appeared on Sixers Wire! Follow us on Facebook!


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