Quite a bit has to go wrong for a team to lose an 18-point lead, score 38 points after halftime and cough up a second-round playoff game.
However, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers didn’t share any complex explanations after his team’s 103-100 Game 4 defeat Monday night to the Hawks. He believes the Sixers should be on the verge of the Eastern Conference Finals, not two losses from elimination.
“We stopped passing,” he said. “I thought we started the game off that way, then we got back into ball movement, then we went back to hero basketball, basically. Everybody wanted to be the hero instead of just trusting the team and just trusting each other. When you do that, you usually lose, especially when the other team outworks you the whole f---ing game, and that’s what they did today.”
Tobias Harris, who scored all 20 of his points before the fourth quarter, said Rivers conveyed the gist of that sentiment to the Sixers.
“He shared that with us,” Harris said. “It’s a valid statement. Obviously in crunch time like that … we wouldn’t have been there if we just stuck to what we were doing in the first half, getting the ball side to side. We let that slip, (not) playing that type of way in the second half, so that hurt us. It all just trickled down from there, really.”
The Hawks managed to win despite shooting 36.6 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three-point range. They turned the ball over just four times — the fewest by a Sixers opponent since the Heat’s three turnovers on Feb. 3, 2020 — and grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, including five by John Collins.
By any measure, the Sixers' second-half ball movement was indeed substandard. After recording 17 first-half assists, the Sixers had four in the third period and two in the fourth.
Joel Embiid continued to play on a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee and was obviously affected by that injury. He shot 0 for 12 in the second half, with his most notable miss a layup with 8.8 seconds remaining that could’ve given the Sixers a one-point advantage. Rivers was pleased with that look, which stemmed from Harris handling the ball on a pick-and-roll.
“To me, the game should’ve never come to that point,” he said. “We missed so many opportunities. It was live; I can’t wait to watch the film. But my eyes told me that we blew a golden opportunity tonight.”
Rivers didn’t buy the idea that Danny Green, sidelined by a right calf strain, could’ve steadied the team with a timely tidbit of veteran wisdom.
“I don’t know, man,” he said. “If that’s what we need to win, one guy telling someone … we should all know it and do it anyway, right? I was really disappointed in how our approach was tonight. Give the Hawks credit. I thought they hit. I thought they knocked us around the floor.
“I thought Collins was the toughest man on the floor all night. You’re going to see everybody else’s numbers, but I thought Collins was the guy tonight — just hitting the glass all night, keeping things alive. I just thought they were the more physical, tougher team, and it wasn’t close tonight.”