I guess it was fitting that Ben Simmons clobbered the Bulls on “Australian Heritage Night.”
The rookie point guard/forward/whatever dropped 19, 17, and 14 on Wednesday.
His performance reminded me of this woman I “used to know” in college – aggressive and sort of angry. Joel Embiid thinks the All-Star snub might have had something to do with Ben’s performance.
But whatever the case, this is the Simmons that we want to see every night, the player who drives to rim, gets to his spots, hits the glass, and flings the ball around. Without JJ Redick, T.J. McConnell, and Jerryd Bayless, the Sixers built up a big lead against the Kris Dunn-less Bulls and went on to win by 14.
No blown leads last night.
It’s kind of stupid when you’re on a triple double watch in the first quarter, but sure enough Simmons had 8, 11, and 5 after 12 minutes of play. It took him 16 minutes to secure the double-double and he hit the triple-double mark less than one minute into the third.
It was his fifth triple-double of the season, and according to Sixers’ PR, he became:
“…the third NBA player to record at least five triple-doubles in their first 50 NBA games, joining Hall of Famer OSCAR ROBERTSON and ALVIN ADAMS (Elias Sports Bureau). The five triple-doubles are third in the NBA this season behind Oklahoma City’s RUSSELL WESTBROOK (14) and Cleveland’s LEBRON JAMES (seven).”
That’s pretty good company.
Simmons’ 11 first-quarter rebounds were the most by any Philly player in any quarter this season. The previous high was six.
And yes, some of that is by design, where teammates are going leave uncontested boards for Simmons to take so that he can push the ball up the floor and work at tempo. And even in the case where rebounds are contested, your point guard also happens to be 6’10”. It’s a rare combo and it explains why he hits those early figures so easily.
Brett Brown actually talked about that before the game when asked about the team’s turnover problem. He said the first priority with Simmons wasn’t even cleaning up his passing, but to get him to start rebounding consistently, because it’s a catalyst for the transitional movement to the offensive side of the floor.
Post game, he followed up –
“I think it was before this game, we talked about free throws and I flipped it quickly to rebounding. He rebounded and instigated a lot himself and he’s able to control stuff when he rebounds he can rebound and take off. I still think that’s the hardest thing to guard. Back in the day you’d see Charles Barkley do that – rebound and lead a break. It’s hard to defend that, with the exception of maybe the high kick out, the high outlet. That’s maybe the most second effective way; you’d see Magic Johnson do it all the time. And I thought in the first half, there was a lot of like, we call them dribble-out back downs, where he was out, there was nobody ahead of him, he would turn and play and find other people on the other side of the floor or spin out and finish himself. And I think that the style of the game, him rebounding, it allowed him to put his thumbprint on this game early.”
Here’s a good example of Ben rebounding and pushing the pace:
Grab the board, push it up to Justin Anderson, swing it back along the perimeter, drive, kick-out for three.
That’s a very Lebron James-esque pass right there, and that’s what Simmons does well when he’s rebounding the ball, moving at tempo, and getting everybody else into the action on offense. There’s no standing around there.
As far as the “back down” that Brown mentioned, here’s Simmons doing it not off a rebound, but off a made Chicago bucket:
He’s capable of pushing the pace in a non-transitional scenario as well.
And you see him guarded by 6’4″ David Nwaba there. It’s a total mismatch, so Ben identifies it, takes him into the post, and gets the turn around shot to fall.
That’s one of the main reasons they play him as a point guard, because having a 6’10” guy run the floor with tempo creates matchup nightmares for opposing teams whose guards are too small to body him and whose forwards are too slow to keep up.
Quarterbacking the floor
Not to be outdone by Simmons, Joel Embiid had a quiet 22, 5, and 3 last night.
He looked more composed and focused, finishing with just three turnovers and navigating early foul trouble successfully.
Said Brown of Embiid’s play:
“I thought it was Joel’s best game passing out of the post. You can look at the stat sheet and I don’t even know what the assists will say, but it’s the fact that he quarterbacked the gym and it’s the hockey assist – the assist that leads to the assist. And our shooters made shots. It’s one of the greatest challenges, to have somebody as skilled as Joel play with that poise and know where his floor spots are. We spaced well, I think almost perfectly most possessions. He’d let the gym get settled. He wasn’t rushing things.”
Brown went on to say that he felt like half of the team’s 16 made three-pointers were initiated by Embiid post passes.
That was certainly the case here, where he feels a Ryan Arcidiacono double-team and passes out of it:
And here, where Lauri Markkanen shows the late double team, but Joel kicks it out instead:
Those plays are important, because Embiid has struggled this season with the delayed double team. You’ll see the high defender wait for Joel to turn and start backing down his man, then attack the ball from there. That’s usually when Joel gets in trouble, with his back to the basket and the ball on the floor.
But he’s getting the timing down now, understanding that teams have scouted out his post patterns and are bringing secondary help from the elbow or underneath. If he continues to dish out of the low block area like this, his teammates are going to have open shots for days.
On this one, he actually swings it all the way to the opposite corner, where Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot then spots Ben Simmons under the rim:
They’re fun to watch when they’re clicking.