After repeatedly asking if Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid can co-exist together long-term, Philadelphia 76ers had their wish granted with a head-to-head showdown at the All-Star game. It was fantastic.
All-Star games aren’t usually a whole lot of fun to watch.
The Pro Bowl? Bad. The MLB All-Star game? I’d rather watch the Home Run Derby. Heck, does the NHL even have an All-Star game? If so, I’ve never seen it. So needless to say, after watching an absolute classic Slam Dunk Contest the night prior, hosted by the Philadelphia 76ers‘ in-house hypeman Christian Crosby, I wasn’t too excited to actually watch the best 26 players the NBA has to offer throw down in a glorified exhibition game.
Boy was I mistaken.
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With a new – for lack of better word – playground-style fourth quarter to honor the late Kobe Bryant, the game was fast, loose, and uber-competitive, even if the final outcome being decided on a free throw was rather anti-climactic.
Finally facing off on opposite teams for the first time since, well, last All-Star game, Simmons and Embiid each played 29 minutes of action, with the former scoring 17 points but securing the win for Team LeBron, while the latter put up 22 points including a game-leading 10 in the final quarter of action. Kawhi Leonard may have won the inaugural Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award, but Philly was the real winner.
To make matters even better, we actually got several chances to see Embiid and Simmons face off one-on-one in-game as opponents, with both players picking up highlight plays at the other’s expense. It was all love, but believe you me, the sight of Simmons picking Embiid’s pocket will go down in the annals of ‘The Process’ history.
Who knows, maybe Brett Brown was watching intently at home, notebook in hand, looking for a few new ways to spice up his at-times stagnant offense. Not the worst idea when you consider Simmons was almost exclusively used as an off-ball big who picked up a baker’s half-dozen dunks for 14 of his 17 points.
Will the All-Star format stick this way moving forward? Could the league amend the rules yet again and include a ‘you can’t win on a free throw’ rule as suggested by The Ringer’s Shea Serrano? Only time will tell, but after wishing to see how Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons operate against each other for years now, it’s safe to say Philadelphia 76ers fans got everything they asked for and oh so much more.
Oh, and by the way, Brandon Ingram finished out the game with the least minutes played of any player in the game and missed all three of his 3 point attempts. Still think he’s better than Ben Simmons, Kevin O’Conner?