Ben Simmons’ penalty shootout issues so far in the playoffs aren’t just obvious.
They are fundamentally unprecedented.
The Philadelphia guard is 22 for 67 from the line so far in this playoffs. He fell to 32.8% after being 4-for-14 in Philadelphia’s Game 5 loss to Atlanta in the Eastern Conference semifinals on Wednesday night – and no one in NBA playoff history, with so many attempts in the playoffs, has never been worse.
The second lowest percentage, among those with at least 67 playoff free kicks, is Shaquille O’Neal’s 37.4% for Miami in 2006 – when the Heat won the NBA championship anyway.
“Obviously I have to take the free throws down,” Simmons said. “I have to step up and do this.”
Game 6 of the series takes place Friday in Atlanta, with the top-ranked 76ers now in a winning or coming home scenario as they drag the best of the seven 3-2.
There have been, entering Thursday, 804 other instances in NBA history where a player has made at least 67 free throws in a single playoff series. Of those, someone has finished below 50% just 23 times, below 40% just five more times – three by Wilt Chamberlain, two by O’Neal.
Chamberlain and O’Neal are all-time greats, and another Hall of Fame member – Ben Wallace, who is in the 2021 class – would have been worse if he had made 67 free throws in the 2006 playoffs. He was 18 for 66 that spring, only 27.3%.
Otherwise, Simmons is the only one right now when it comes to the futility of fouls.
Simmons’ 10 misses on the line in Game 5 have been the most important for any player in any NBA game this season. In Philadelphia’s three losses to Atlanta in this series, he’s an 8-for-29 combined from the foul line. The 76ers have lost those games by a total of 10 points.
76ers coach Doc Rivers even had to take Simmons out late in some games, including Game 5, as the likelihood of him being intentionally sent to the line and missing free throws is just too risky. .
“When Ben does them, we can keep him,” Rivers said. “When he doesn’t, we can’t. And that’s how.
Simmons missed 45 free throws in 10 playoff games. That’s more than three teams in total missed their first 10 games of these playoffs; Atlanta missed 35, Phoenix missed 29, and Brooklyn missed 22. The Los Angeles Clippers missed 46, as a team, in 12 games.
Simmons, the No.1 pick in the 2016 draft, has never been an outstanding foul shooter; he has always been between 56% and 62% in each of his professional seasons. And that wasn’t a big deal in the first half of this season, when he was shooting 67% at the all-star break. February tied the best free-shooting month of his career with a 45 of 64, a 70% clip.
But he shot 53% after the break and saw the numbers continue to drop in the playoffs. He doesn’t know why either.
“No idea of any of this,” Simmons said. “It’s on me.”
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