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For the second time this season, Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons called his team “too soft,” this one after a 123-121 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.
With All-Star center Joel Embiid sidelined because of a sore ankle, the Hawks piled up 62 points in the paint against the 76ers and outrebounded them, 44-30.
“Definitely,” Simmons said, according to ESPN, when questioned whether physicality was Philadelphia’s biggest issue in the loss. “I think we were too soft.”
Simmons also used “soft” to describe the 76ers in November after a 25-point loss to the Brooklyn Nets, a conclusion in which Embiid agreed.
Four-time All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler, acquired after the Sixers’ blowout loss to Brooklyn, did not agree with Simmons’ assessment after the loss to the 13-29 Hawks on Friday night.
He missed two free throws with 2.4 seconds to play after losing the basketball on a drive, which led to Atlanta’s John Collins draining a fadeaway jumper for the lead with 25 seconds remaining.
Jimmy Butler on his assessment of the Sixers pic.twitter.com/rIoJLGNuNp
— Jessica Camerato (@JessicaCamerato) January 12, 2019
“I don’t like the word ‘soft,'” Butler said, and added a whistle. “I just don’t think that we did what we were supposed to do. I’m not gonna say that anybody’s soft. I just think that we got beat in every aspect of the game. They came out from the jump and did what they wanted to do, and they did that for 48 straight minutes.”
Butler had been 12 fo 12 at the line before the two crucial misses.
“I hope we’re still together,” he said. “Nobody pointing fingers at anybody.”
Simmons had a triple-double in the loss, with 23 points, 10 boards and 15 dimes, but was in no mood to celebrate it after bowing to Atlanta, which dropped Philadelphia’s record to 27-16, fourth-best in the Eastern Conference.
“I just don’t think we’re physical enough. I think defensively, we’re not taking it personal enough when guys score on us,” he said. “It should be a pride thing when somebody scores; you should be frustrated every time.
“I think that comes with age — we have a lot of young guys — but at the same time, I think we have to expect more from each other to get better and get to that next level. ‘Cause I know once playoff time comes, it’s another level.”
Simmons was asked if he’s talked about the issue with his teammates and did not offer a direct answer.
“We know. We know we gotta be more physical,” he said.
“We have to take it as a challenge. You don’t wanna come out on the floor and have guys go at you every game. You wanna make that a pride thing. You wanna come out and get stops and lock down your man. And that’s everybody, including me.”