The end of the Thunder-Sixers game was an amazing example of some back-and-forth bone-headedness that could only be accomplished with these underachieving franchises.
After Paul George sunk two free throws to give the Thunder a 113-110 lead with 20 seconds left in the game, Russell Westbrook fouled Joel Embiid on his three-point attempt. The center got all three free throws to go in, even after Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan called timeout between shots two and three, and the game was tied. The Thunder chose to go the length of the court to set up a game-winning play. Dennis Schröder got the inbounds pass but was immediately forced to make a cross-court pass after Ben Simmons and Wilson Chandler trapped him in the back court. Jimmy Butler saw the throw was going to Steven Adams and picked it off to score the open layup. Philadelphia led 115-113 with 6.9 seconds remaining.
After calling a timeout to advance the ball, the Thunder responded with authority. Paul George got a step on Butler during the inbounds play, was fouled by the Sixers guard and sunk the shot for a chance at a four-point play, which he converted.
This where things went downhill. Embiid inbounded the ball to Ben Simmons, who sprinted to the corner of the three-point arc. Even though he had an open look, he tried to hesitate like he was going for a shot—a move that absolutely nobody bit on—and then handed the ball off to Butler. Simmons’s man, George, jumped over to double Butler, and the Sixers guard was forced heave up a three-point prayer over two defenders. It missed.
This is what’s so frustrating about Simmons’s lack of a jumper. It’s no longer a case of defenses giving him comically large amounts of space, this hangup is causing him to choke in clutch situations and forget how to think entirely. Sure, everyone knew he wasn’t actually going to shoot it from three, but he still had enough of a half-step on George that he could have at least tried to score at the rim. Even after handing the ball off the Butler, George leaves Simmons, giving him enough space to call for the ball and take a shot a bit closer to the hoop. Instead, Simmons stands there and waits for his teammate to do the work like a veteran quarterback being asked to serve as a decoy receiver.
Who could have guessed that a player without a jump shot could cause problems for his team down the stretch?