The Philadelphia 76ers entered Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a golden opportunity to take a stranglehold on the series. A win Monday night would’ve given the Sixers a 3-1 lead over the Atlanta Hawks, and they would’ve had a chance to close out the series in front of a raucous Wells Fargo Center in Game 5.
The Sixers took a 13-point lead into halftime, but they were outworked for the majority of the second half and couldn’t make the necessary winning plays down the stretch to close out the game. After the embarrassing loss, head coach Doc Rivers didn’t hold back on his team for their effort (or lack thereof) in a crucial Game 4.
Sixers falter down the stretch to blow Game 4
Everything was going just swell for the Sixers early in their Game 4 clash against the Hawks Monday night. Philadelphia outscored Atlanta 62-49 in the first half, and it looked as if a 3-1 series lead was inevitable.
But the Hawks weren’t going to go down without a fight. They scratched and clawed their way back into the game in the second half as the Sixers suddenly looked lethargic and scared of the moment. Joel Embiid struggled to find his groove, the offense went stagnant, and the Sixers were getting beat to seemingly every loose ball. In the end, the Hawks eeked out an imperative win, 103-100.
You can give Embiid a pass for his first rough shooting night on his torn meniscus. You can forgive the offense for panicking while their best player isn’t giving them the boost he normally does. But you simply can’t excuse the team for losing the effort battle in their most important game of the season.
Effort is a choice. The Sixers chose not to box out John Collins as he continuously muscled through white jerseys to grab offensive rebound after offensive rebound down the stretch. They chose not to get on the floor as the Hawks hustled for every loose ball.
The Hawks chose to fight for their playoff lives Monday night. The Sixers did not.
Doc Rivers eviscerates the Sixers after embarrassing loss
Philadelphia fans couldn’t have been happy watching their 3-1 series lead slip away in Atlanta. And if they weren’t thrilled with the performance, just imagine how the head coach felt.
After the Game 4 loss, Rivers blasted his team for playing hero ball and getting outworked all night.
“We stopped passing,” Rivers told reporters Monday. “I thought we started the game off that way, then we got back to the ball movement, then we went back to hero basketball. Basically, everybody wanted to be the hero instead of just trusting the team, trusting each other. So 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.”
Rivers said the Hawks were the more physical team all game long. And for a Sixers squad that boasts one of the biggest and most imposing starting lineups in the NBA, that’s not a good sign moving forward.
“I was really disappointed in how our approach was tonight,” Rivers said. “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.”
Rivers admits the Sixers blew a “golden opportunity”
Instead of heading back to Philadelphia with a commanding 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Sixers now face a must-win Game 5 with the series knotted at 2-2. In the NBA playoffs, teams can’t afford to blow opportunities and hope to make up for them in the next game. Championship teams step on their opponent’s throat when they see any sign of weakness.
The Sixers failed to do that Monday night, and now the Hawks have life again.
“We missed so many opportunities,” Rivers said. “I can’t wait to watch the film, but my eyes told me that we blew a golden opportunity tonight.”