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Sixers come to terms with sickening defeat; Rivers insists they’ll force Game 7 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

As a common-sense policy, the NBA has a mandatory cool-down period before reporters are allowed into locker rooms after games.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has coincided with restricted media access this season, that time for players and coaches to slow their heart rates down and gather their composure still exists.

However, one senses no duration between the final buzzer of the Sixers’ Game 5 loss to the Hawks and postgame sessions with reporters would have been adequate for the participants to fully wrap their heads around what had just transpired. It was a sickening and stunning game for everyone on the Sixers’ side. 

The Sixers blew a 26-point lead, conceded 40 fourth-quarter points and scored 19. 

Their season will still be alive if they can win Friday night in Atlanta and force a Game 7 at Wells Fargo Center. Head coach Doc Rivers insisted his team will do that.

“We’ll get back up,” Rivers said. “We’ll be back here for Game 7. I believe that. The mood was down, it was awful. What would you think it would be? It would have to be, right? And so this is part of sports. You have some awful moments. 

“There is no guaranteed path to get to your goal. We have made this hard on ourselves. We have to own up to that, all of us. And then we have to get up and be ready for the next game. It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere — good. We’ll be ready for it.”

The Sixers will scrutinize the film of this loss, as they did after squandering an 18-point advantage in Game 4, but they know the essence of what they’ll see. Scratchy, nervy half-court possessions down the stretch were again prevalent. In the fourth period, the Sixers recorded two assists. 

Tobias Harris scored four points and shot a playoff career-low 18.2 percent from the floor (2 for 11). He didn’t have an immediate answer for why the team let two large leads vanish in succession. Rivers had deemed Game 4 a “golden opportunity” down the drain, and Wednesday night was worse. 

“It’s a great question,” Harris said. “I don’t know right now. That’s a tough one to answer, but it’s been the weakness right now. When we gain those leads, we kind of go away from what got us there, and that was playing defense, moving the basketball, getting some good looks. That’s hurt us in the last two games.”

Seth Curry, fresh off a playoff career-high 36 points on 13-for-19 shooting, said the back-to-back collapses should not have a psychological impact.

“It shouldn’t,” Curry said. “Grown men over here. Watch the film, learn from it and bounce back. We know who we are as a team and as players. One game should never affect the next.”

Ben Simmons, after staring down 14 free throws and missing 10 of them, had a concise summary of the Sixers’ mindset. 

“We’ve got to go get the win,” he said. “We’re obviously capable of doing that. We know what we’re capable of as a team, just got to go do it.”

The Sixers will have more time to reflect and comprehend why they’re one loss away from a second-round exit before Friday’s game.

Perhaps deep contemplation isn’t necessary at this stage, though.

“This one is going to hurt,” Harris said. “It hurts. But tomorrow we have to put it behind us, find a way to get better, go to Atlanta and get a win. Our backs are against the wall right now and we have to play like it.”