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It was one of the more shocking moments in NBA postseason history and the final straw in Ben Simmons’ time as a Philadelphia 76er.
Simmons, now a member of the Brooklyn Nets, struggled all series against the Atlanta Hawks during the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals.
In the seven-game series, Simmons, the starting point guard, scored just 19 points in the final three games while attempting just three shots total during the fourth quarter of the series.
But it was the Game 7 decision to pass up a wide-open dunk that doomed Simmons.
With just over 3:30 left in the fourth quarter of Game 7 with Atlanta up 88-86, Simmons spun on the baseline against Danilo Gallinari, finding himself all alone under the basket. Instead of either laying the ball in or dunking it to tie the game, Simmons inexplicably passed to Matisse Thybulle, who was fouled and wound up making just one of two free throws.
Philadelphia lost Game 7, and Sixers star Joel Embiid referenced the moment after the game as the series’ turning point.
Simmons wound up sitting out the entire 2021-2022 NBA season, underwent back surgery during the offseason and is now preparing for Brooklyn’s 2022-2023 training camp.
On Thursday, Simmons joined former NBA player and current ESPN analyst JJ Redick’s podcast and discussed the pass that effectively ended his time in Philadelphia.
“The 100-point basket,” Simmons joked when asked to explain his decision to pass on the “Old Man and the Three” podcast. “In the moment, I just spun, and I’m assuming Trae [Young] is going to come over quicker. So, I’m thinking he’s going to come full-blown, and I see Matisse going … ‘You know, Matisse is athletic, can get up.’ So, I’m thinking, ‘OK, quick pass.’ He’s going to flush it, not knowing how much space there was.
“It happened so quick that you just make a read. And, in the playoffs, you need to make the right decisions the majority of the time.”
Redick, who was a teammate of Simmons during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, points out that it would have been difficult for Simmons to know that it was the much smaller Young coming over to defend before telling Simmons that the play looks bad when slowed down.
“Yeah. F—, it looks terrible,” Simmons agreed. “When I look at it now, I’m like, ‘Man, I should have just punched that s—.’ But it didn’t happen, and I was OK with that.”
Simmons asked for a trade from Philadelphia prior to the start of the 2021-2022 season, finally getting his wish in February as part of a blockbuster deal that sent 10-time All-Star James Harden to the Sixers.
Brooklyn’s training camp begins Tuesday, Sept. 27.