7:41 AM ET
PHILADELPHIA — What was a wildly entertaining game between the Warriors and 76ers — one ultimately won by Golden State 120-117 — instead will be remembered for two head-scratching decisions by Philadelphia inside the final minute.
Both of them — an intentional foul by 76ers forward Mike Scott and an intentionally missed free throw by 76ers guard Ben Simmons — kept Philadelphia from ever getting off a potential tying shot.
“There’s so much situation stuff that we just really haven’t had the chance to go through with our new guys,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “Whether you need a 3 on a sideline, whether you’re trying to miss a free throw and position people around, whether you want a foul or don’t-you-foul type stuff, even though these guys are great players, have been around the league a long time, every coaching staff is sort of different.
Sixers center Joel Embiid says he has learned his lesson trying to play through discomfort, which is why he has missed the past five games with left knee soreness. But the All-Star said he expects to return next week.
“Some of it isn’t their fault, and it’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the fact that we’ve [only] been with each other for a minute, and at times like that, it rears its head and you feel that pain.”
Scott’s intentional foul was an unambiguous mistake. After Tobias Harris made a 3-pointer with 37.1 seconds left — one of the few shots he got to go down on a night he went 7-for-20 overall and 3-for-11 from 3-point range — to get to within 117-114, Philadelphia had a chance to play defense, stop the Warriors and get the ball back for a potential tying shot.
Only Philadelphia didn’t play defense. Instead, Scott inexplicably wrapped up Warriors star Kevin Durant with 35 seconds left, sending him to the foul line where the 89 percent foul shooter calmly drained both to put Golden State back up by five.
“Shouldn’t have,” Brown said bluntly when asked about Scott’s foul. “Shouldn’t have.”
When Scott talked to reporters about a half hour later, he made no attempt to argue.
“I’m going to get mad all over again,” he said. “Just bad. I am not one for excuses … there’s no excuse. I just have to do better.”
Asked what he was thinking on the play, Scott simply said, “It just wasn’t good. That’s on me. I’ve just got to be better. I don’t have nothing for you. I just have to be better.”
The second decision — Simmons intentionally missing a free throw with 10.3 seconds left — was much more controversial and debatable. After Golden State had thrown away the ball while leading by three with 19.3 seconds left, Philadelphia had a chance to get off a potential tying shot.
Before the 76ers could, Draymond Green fouled Simmons near midcourt — a foul Green didn’t want to commit and was upset was called on him.
Still, there were worse outcomes for the Warriors than sending Simmons — a 58 percent foul shooter — to the free throw line in that situation. When Simmons made the first free throw, the assumption was he would try to make the second. Philadelphia would then go for a steal on the inbounds pass and foul if it failed to get the ball, sending the Warriors back to the line and still leaving the Sixers with a chance to, at worst, tie the score with a 3.
Instead, Simmons tried to intentionally miss but wound up missing the rim entirely, giving the ball back to Golden State.
After the game, any question about whether that was something Simmons did on his own disappeared when Brown was asked if that was his decision.
“Absolutely,” the coach said. “Obviously you have to hit the rim, but yes.”
Brown’s rationale was that, with no timeouts left, he would rather go for an offensive rebound on a missed free throw than go up and down the court with Golden State in a free throw shooting contest.
“Not for us,” Brown said. “When I don’t have timeouts, and we have to do something coming back, I will do it all day, every day — miss it and try to get some kind of a putback.
“I think it’s questionable for me when I have timeouts. When I don’t, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Most people watching felt it was questionable to miss the free throw intentionally in that situation — Green included.
“I didn’t understand that one,” Green said. “I mean, you can’t say he didn’t catch us off guard because we didn’t still get the clean rebound. It may have worked had he hit the rim, but nonetheless I was shocked.”
Remarkably, Philadelphia wound up down three with the ball one final time when Durant missed the second of two free throws with 4.5 seconds left. But when Simmons hit Harris in the corner with a pass that initially appeared to give him a chance at a potential tying shot, Harris wound up being crowded by two defenders and stepping out of bounds before heaving up a shot that had little chance of going in anyway.
“At that time, we didn’t have any timeouts or anything, so we were just trying to get to the 3-point line,” Harris said. “Obviously, when he threw it, two guys came running out, I was already kind of leaning out of bounds.
“It was just a tough play, honestly, with no timeouts and having the ball at three-quarter court to throw it in.”