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'Don't know': Harsh truth in NBA coach's telling Ben Simmons call

Ben Simmons gets in position to guard Atlanta's Trae Young during the NBA Playoffs.

Ben Simmons is facing a brutal aftermath to the Philadelphia 76ers' playoff defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks, which ended their season in a chorus of boos.

Already feeling the heat after troubling performances in the games leading up to the decisive game seven, Simmons had a strong start but disappeared down the stretch.

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The Australian star finished with just five points, but added 13 assists and eight rebounds in the gutting 103-96 loss to the Hawks.

Atlanta had been 0-9 in Games 7s on the road but they ignored their ignominious history and got one in Philly to eliminate Simmons, Joel Embiid and co. and close the book on 'The Process'.

Embiid, the NBA MVP runner-up, Simmons and a high-priced cast of stars were supposed to put the upstart Hawks in their place. It never happened.

Embiid led the Sixers with 31 points and 11 rebounds and we supported by 24 points from Tobias Harris but it was the inability of Simmons to make a scoring impact that proved decisive.

Simmons took just four shots for the game, with fans particularly aggrieved late in the fourth quarter after he turned down an open layup and instead passed to teammate Matisse Thybulle, who was fould.

It was a crucial moment of the game and one that wasn't lost on Embiid, who was visibly frustrated on court after the play and discussed the moment after the devastating loss.

"I mean, I'll be honest. I thought the turning point was when we — I don't know how to say it — but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and then they came down and scored," he said, referencing Simmons' pass to Harris.

"We didn't get a good possession on the other end and Trae came back and he made a 3 and then from there down four, it's on me.

"I turned the ball over and tried to make something happen from the perimeter. But I thought that was the turning point."

Sixers coach Doc Rivers backed Simmons to address his shooting weakness in his post-game press conference, but crucially held back when asked a telling question.

“Obviously, he struggled from the free throw line, and that became a factor in this series. There’s no doubt about that," Rivers said.

"I still believe in him, but we have work to do. We’re going to have to get in the gym, put a lot of work in, and go forward.”

Crucially though, Rivers hesitated when asked if Simmons had what it took to be a championship calibre point guard.

"I don't know how to answer that question right now," he replied.

Sixers stunned as Atlanta Hawks steal game seven victory

Embiid led the Sixers with 31 points and 11 rebounds and we supported by 24 points from Tobias Harris but it was the inability of Simmons to make a scoring impact that proved decisive.

Although he dished out 13 assists, Simmons only took four shots in the decisive game - ending the playoffs averaging just 11.9 points per game and a lamentable 34.2 per cent (25 of 72) from the free-throw line.

He was benched for the final 54 seconds left as the 76ers attempted in vain to overturn the deficit.

Speculation will intensify that the 2016 No.1 draft pick has played his last game for the 76ers and that he could be traded.

Ben Simmons scored only five points in Philadelphia's loss to Atlanta, which saw them eliminated from the NBA Playoffs. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Ben Simmons scored only five points in Philadelphia's loss to Atlanta, which saw them eliminated from the NBA Playoffs. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

That's a disturbing turnaround for a player who, along with superstar centre Embiid, has been a cornerstone of the club's eight-year "trust the process" rebuild designed to create a championship force.

An 18,624 strong Sixers crowd let the home team have it and booed them off the court while at least one object was thrown onto the court from the stands with time running out.

Hawks star Trae Young struggled shooting but still managed 21 points while Kevin Huerter got a team high 27 points.

The Hawks will open their first conference finals since 2015 against the Bucks on Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

This marks only the second year since 1973 - when the NBA began seeding for the playoffs by conference - when neither No.1 seed will make the conference finals after Australian swingman Joe Ingles and the Utah Jazz were knocked out by the Los Angeles Clippers.

With AAP

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