Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Playoffs 2019: Where has Ben Simmons been in the fourth quarter of the 76ers-Raptors series?

Kawhi Leonard, Ben Simmons [NBA Getty Images]

After three quarters of Game 4 the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors were all tied up.

The 76ers had a chance to seize control of the series if they could close out at home to take a 3-1 lead, but they couldn't pull it off.

Kawhi Leonard hit some big shots and Jimmy Butler did everything he could to match that, but lack of production from the rest of the Sixers left them with a loss and a tied series headed back to Toronto for Game 5.

It was an ugly final quarter across the board for Philly's stars - Tobias Harris went 0-for-6 from the field, Joel Embiid went 0-for-2 and Ben Simmons converted one field goal on two attempts with zero assists.

If not for Butler's 10 points, two offensive rebounds and two assists, the 76ers would have been done long before Kawhi's dagger 3-pointer in the final minute.

Butler has taken over as the go-to closer and playmaker for the 76ers and that's in large part to Simmons reoccuring absences in the fourth quarter this series.

Simmons has played 34 minutes in the fourth quarter of the four games against the Raptors. In that time, he has only attempted three shots, two of which came in Game 4 with one being a missed one-handed putback attempt and the other being a fast break layup on the final possession when the outcome was already decided. He also has yet to go to the free throw line, failing to attack on the offensive end.

In fact, Aussie teammate Jonah Bolden has more field goal attempts and the same number of field goals made in the fourth quarter as Simmons.

As an elite playmaker you would assume that means his assist numbers would be up, but that's not the case either - Simmons has just three assists in the fourth quarter of this series, giving him more fouls (6) than field goals made and assists combined (5).

His usage rate in the fourth is down at an alarming 4.1% - the lowest of any player in the Conference Semifinals that averages at least 6.0 minutes in the fourth quarter.

In comparison to the rest of his team, it's the lowest usage rate in the fourth quarter aside from Boban Marjanovic and Zhaire Smith, who's usage rates are both 0.0%.

So what has happened to the Simmons of the fourth quarter that we saw in the first round against the Brooklyn Nets?

In that series, he averaged 2.8 field goal attempts in the fourth and converted at a 50.0% rate. He was averaging 2.0 free throw attempts, dished out nine assists in five games and was plus-23 on a 25.3% usage rate when his team needed him most.

This series he's a team-worst minus-11 in the fourth.

Maybe it's the increased focus on the defensive end, playing the lead role in trying to stop Kawhi. That is most certainly taxing, but as an All-Star and floor general against a powerful team that won 58 games in the regular season, his team needs him on both ends of the court.

As you'll see below, Simmons spent the majority of the fourth quarter watching his team's offensive possessions from the block.

On the one possession he did attack and had a decent look at the rim, he opted to pass up his shot to feed Harris, who then attempted a layup from a tough angle on the side of the backboard which was blocked by Serge Ibaka.

Simmons needs to play more aggressively - his teammate Butler even said it himself after their loss.

This team is at their best when the former Rookie of the Year is in attack mode, hunting for his own shot just as much as he's looking to set up his teammates. It would give the Raptors another threat to worry about defensively and would open up passing lanes when the defence collapses on his forays into the paint, freeing up guys like Harris, Butler or JJ Redick on the perimeter.

We've already seen it this postseason, too. After putting up nine points on nine shots in the 76ers' Game 1 loss to the Nets, he kicked his aggressiveness up a notch with a triple-double of 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in Game 2 and a 31-point, 11-for-13 shooting from the field Game 3 - both blowout wins for Philly.

The series is down to a best-of-three to see who advances to the Eastern Conference Finals. If the 76ers take that next step, it'll be because Simmons started attacking on the offensive end, especially in the fourth quarter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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