Washington Wizards: Keep hacking Ben Simmons. It works.

Washington Wizards Ben Simmons Davis Bertans. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Wizards Ben Simmons Davis Bertans. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Game four was the game of adjustments for Scott Brooks and the Washington Wizards. It started with Daniel Gafford being inserted into the starting lineup, his first start as a member of the Wizards. It ended with the debut of a defense we hadn’t seen from the Wizards before game four: the Hack-a-Ben. Oh, and it also ended with a win.

At one point in game four, it actually looked like the Wizards might cruise to a comfortable victory. That was until Tyrese Maxey and Furkan Korkmaz erased a 12-point fourth-quarter Wizards lead. With the game tied and the lead gone, Brooks stopped giving the 76ers offensive chances and started making Ben Simmons earn everything at the line.

In the final three minutes of game four, the Wizards sent Simmons to the line four times. During those trips, he went 4/8.

It’s hard to argue with the strategy given that it worked. When the Wizards started hacking Simmons with 2:47 left, the game was tied 108-108. By the time the Wizards abandoned it, they were up 118-112. They ultimately won 122-114. However, 76ers coach Doc Rivers didn’t seem too worried about how the Wizards singled out Simmons.

The Washington Wizards couldn’t stop the Philadelphia 76ers down the stretch of game four, so they sent Ben Simmons to the foul line. Is it something they should keep doing?

During the course of Ben Simmons’ four seasons in the NBA, he’s never shot better than 62.5 percent from the foul line for an entire season. This season, he shot 61.3 percent from the charity stripe. In game four, he shot 45.5 percent from the line, and in this series, he’s shooting just 25 percent from the line.

Those numbers beg for more Hack-a-Ben, but Rivers makes a good point about the 76ers getting a point per possession on the Simmons foul shots. That’s better than nothing, right?

Well, based on their offensive rating according to NBA.com, here’s how the 76ers fared in points per possession during the regular season and so far this series…

  • Regular season: 1.13 points per possession
  • Playoffs: 1.20 points per possession

And here’s how they’ve performed in clutch situations, presumably when Hack-a-Ben would most likely be used…

  • Regular season clutch: 1.09 points per possession
  • Playoffs clutch: 0.86 points per possession

All in all, a point per possession isn’t that far off from what the 76ers usually get. However, it does prohibit the 76ers from getting anything more than a point per possession.

The 76ers stormed back after the Wizards looked like they might run away with game four. And they did so by going small, which opened up the floor for 76ers. They were able to attack and find shooters open along the perimeter who could then take the shot or again attack a defense already on its heels. But the Wizards stifled the 76ers’ by sending Simmons to the line time and time again. The 76ers couldn’t find Seth Curry around the perimeter for a huge momentum-swinging shot like Rui Hachimura’s corner three that set Capital One Arena on fire.

Hack-a-Ben worked in game four, but it might not be sustainable if the Wizards have to deal with Embiid for an entire game again. He’s gotten the Wizards into foul trouble, and the Wizards may not have the luxury of racking up late-game fouls without it really affecting their personnel. However, given Simmons’ longstanding struggles at the foul line, there’s no reason to think sending him to the line won’t work again moving forward. Hack-a-Ben ain’t pretty, but if it gets the win, it can’t be that bad.

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