With Joel Embiid being a last-minute scratch for last night’s game 3 against Brooklyn, all eyes quickly turned to Ben Simmons. This was his moment, his time to put the team on his back and carry them to a victory.
After he and Jared Dudley traded insults through the media during the week, Simmons had a target on his back heading into Brooklyn. He was booed every time he touched the ball, but he quickly silenced those boos on the way to the best playoff performance of his young career.
Simmons played like an alpha dog – he refused to let the fans get into his head and he simply couldn’t be stopped when he got into the paint.
He finished with a playoff career high 31 points, making 11 of his 13 shots from the field. More importantly, he was 5-for-5 on his free throws late in the game when Brooklyn started intentionally fouling him – a strategy we’ve seen used against Simmons in the past.
This type of performance was exactly what we needed to see out of Simmons. With Embiid on the bench, Simmons should be able to carry the offense and win games for this team — last night he proved that he can (along with JJ and Tobi).
Embiid’s absence opened up the lane for Simmons and he took advantage of it – regardless of it was on a fast-break or in the half court game. There’s no need for a jump shot when you consistently get in the paint and score at the rim.
If Simmons can carry this momentum throughout the rest of the playoffs, the Sixers are easily the most dangerous team in the East – maybe the entire league. When he’s clicking like he was last night it’s nearly impossible to stop the Sixers offense.
It’ll be interesting to see if Simmons approaches the game differently once Embiid is back in the lineup. The lane won’t be there for the taking while Joel’s on the floor, so it’ll be up to Brett Brown to figure out ways to open things up for Ben.
Nevertheless, we saw Simmons mature right before our eyes last night. Two games ago he was throwing shade at Sixers fans for booing, now it looks like he’s thriving off that heat. This is the type of mentality we’ve all been waiting to see out of Ben; it’s the type of mentality that wins championships.
If Simmons and the Sixers can close this series out in the next two games, confidence will be at an all-time high going into the Eastern Conference Semis.