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Rivers passionately backs Simmons after Wizards’ intentional fouls originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Sixers lost Monday night for more than one reason.

Joel Embiid played only 11 minutes before leaving with right knee soreness; Dwight Howard and Mike Scott were not effective replacements; Ben Simmons was hampered by foul trouble all evening; the team shot 31.6 percent from three-point range and conceded 21 fast-break points.

However, Simmons’ foul shooting was a popular topic in head coach Doc Rivers’ session with reporters following a 122-114 Game 4 loss to the Wizards. 

Simmons made 5 of 11 free throws, putting him at 5 for 20 in the series. Washington intentionally sent him to the foul line late in the game, and he converted 4 of 8 attempts in the final 2:47. 

Rivers didn’t think that was the primary cause of the Sixers’ loss. 

“Listen, analytically if you split all those free throws, you’ll take a point per possession,” he said. “He did that. I had no issues with it. Obviously we would’ve loved if he made them both, but I didn’t think that changed the game at all for us.

“I was fine with it. If he had missed them both, then that would be something. Overall, I was fine with it. Obviously that’s what they’re going to do. That’s what they should do, and we’re fine with that.”

Rivers said he did not consider removing Simmons from the game and seemed to find the notion ludicrous.

“I’m going to pass on that one,” Rivers said. “He’s pretty good, so I’ll pass on that suggestion.”

As questions about Simmons’ performance without Embiid continued to come his way, Rivers defended the 24-year-old’s value to the Sixers. No reading between the lines was necessary. He’s miffed by those who fixate on Simmons’ weaknesses and, in his view, don’t properly recognize the Australian’s strengths. 

“You guys keep this Ben Simmons narrative alive, which to me is freaking insane — how good this guy is and all the things he does,” Rivers said. “Ben is not a 40-point guy. That’s not what he does. He does other things for your team, and I just don’t understand why that’s not sinking in in our city. Everybody on the team doesn’t have to be a scorer to help the team. 

“Ben scores, but Ben creates scoring for us. That’s what he does. If I’m Ben, at some point I’d get tired of it. I just would, because he’s just too good and he does so many good things for this basketball team. And I keep saying, celebrate him. Celebrate all the stuff he does well. We don’t do that enough.”

Simmons was straightforward in his response to the Wizards’ late-game strategy. He said he wasn’t upset by it and needed to “step up and knock ‘em down.”

In 25 minutes, Simmons had 13 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the floor, 12 rebounds and three assists. His series averages are 13.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.8 turnovers. 

“I was a little passive at certain times,” he said. “But, at the same time, I was trying to get great looks for my teammates. Furkan (Korkmaz) came in and knocked down a quick one, got us back in the game. And then he had another one at the top of the key, missed that. But we got some good looks.”

Danny Green wasn’t surprised by the intentional fouls. Like Rivers, he didn’t see Simmons’ missed free throws as why the Sixers will need to play a Game 5 on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

“I thought it was interesting,” Green said. “Obviously they’re not stupid. They’ve looked at film, they’ve watched, they’ve seen numbers, so they know he wasn’t shooting that well from the free-throw line for the series. He made five tonight, which I’m cool with. Obviously he’s going to be more critical on himself than anybody else. He’s going to be in the gym making sure that he gets his rhythm back. It’s more of a mental thing than anything for him. 

“But that’s not why we lost the game. It wasn’t free throws, it wasn’t the referees. It was us not executing the way we know we should and the way we could down the stretch.”