Philadelphia 76ers: Apparently Ben Simmons took that personally

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Ben Simmons played badly for the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1. Sure, he had 15 rebounds and 15 assists, which no other payer has ever done in NBA history, but like, who cares. He scored less points than George Hill, and that is NOT okay.”

Did you read something similar to that after the Sixers’ Game 1 win over the Washington Wizards? Or maybe a friend/coworker/random person on the street was screaming it for the world to hear outside of a Wawa?

Well, apparently, Simmons did hear all of the public discourse around his unique stat line in Game 1 and, to paraphrase His Airness, “took that personally.”

And do you know who really won out of the situation? The fans of Philadelphia – minus that dude who threw popcorn at Russell Westbrook – because they were graced with what will go down as the first of many “Ben Simmons games” in his still-young NBA career.

Ben Simmons did pretty much everything for the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 2.

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There’s a commonly held belief that Ben Simmons’ biggest issue is his lack of outside shooting.

I, for one, don’t subscribe to that opinion.

Granted, would it be nice to see the 6-foot-10 wunderkind pull up from beyond the arc and drain daggers like a stretched-out Steph Curry? Most definitely. Simmons gets sag coverage outside the free-throw line more than seemingly any other guard in the NBA, so adding a reliable jumper, even from the midrange, would quite literally change how opposing teams play defense against the Philadelphia 76ers in a potentially massive way.

But that issue is a conversation for another day. Doc Rivers has found a way to optimize what Simmons can do, instead of fixating on what he can’t, and the Sixers have enjoyed the 24-year-old’s best professional season as a result.

No, the one aspect of Simmons’ game that I personally take umbrage with is his inconsistent levels of aggressiveness from game to game.

In this writer’s humble opinion, if Simmons can come out with the fire he presented in his initial 9:29 minute run versus the Washington Wizards in Game 2, it’ll go a long way to silencing the doubters once and for all.

Locked, loaded, and ready to rock in front of a sold-out, limited capacity crowd, Simmons outscored his previous game’s points by the 2:55 mark in the first quarter and finished out the game with a team-high 22 points in 29 minutes while recording nine rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block for his efforts. Simmons was all over the court. He’d fight for defensive rebounds, go coast-to-coast like a darn space ghost, and violently slam down the rock at the other end of the court like the ball owed him money.

If you like Ben Simmons, this was an absolute joy. And if you don’t? Well, what on earth can he do to change your mind? Seriously, at this point, it’s becoming a pretty radical opinion.

While some may point to Bradley Beal dropping 33 as a bizarre knock against both Simmons and Matisse Thybulle – who put in an absolutely insane effort that stands alone from a statistical standpoint – that’s not really a valid case. Rivers made a concerted effort to guard Beal one-on-one without much in the way of creative defensive assignments and was largely awarded for his decision-making as the rest of the roster only combined for 62 points in 205 minutes of combined action.

There isn’t a coach alive who wouldn’t take that in a playoff game, especially when the starting five only had to play an average of 24.6 minutes.

Now tasked with taking the show on the road for a momentum-clenching Game 3 contest against the Wizards on their home court, Simmons coming out hot with another decisive first-quarter showing would go a long way to closing out the series in four games and bringing the Sixers back to South Philly for an early-June contest against the winner of a fairly competitive four-five matchup between the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks.

If the Sixers can close things out early on, it’ll afford the team another mini-break to get in a few practices and prepare for how to slow down the Hawks’ high-powered offense or the Knicks’ slow-paced style of play.

Either way, it’s always better to front-run than to come from behind, as 2017 Philadelphia Eagles fans will surely tell you.

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There’s no doubt about it; Ben Simmons is an instrumental piece for the Philadelphia 76ers. After watching the team go 7-7 in games without him, versus a 42-16 record in games where he appeared, Simmons’ impact on Sixers’ offense is at times immeasurable and hard to quantify for those who keep their eyes closer affixed to the stat line than the court. But if Simmons continues to perform like he did in Game 2 against the Washington Wizards, crashing the glass, blocking shots, and throwing down haymakers with a “My Ball” attitude, it’ll silence those doubters in no time, not that he cares either way.