Ben Simmons was benched for the final nine minutes of the Brooklyn Nets’ 137-133 loss to the 76ers as the Australian was booed relentlessly by the Philadelphia crowd.
Simmons finished the game with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists, and caught fire in the third quarter as the 26-year-old began driving aggressively to the rim.
The Australian scored all 12 of his points in that period, otherwise struggling to assert himself on the offensive end in a scoreless first half.
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Autumn, 26 Jan
Thursday 26 January
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It had ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins stated at halftime that Simmons was “scared of the moment.”
“While Tyrese Maxey has been the X-Factor, Ben hasn’t been a factor,” Perkins said.
“I’m going to change his name to Ben Perkins, he had the same stat lines as me. It’s amazing how (he) goes from an NBA player to an enforcer now, that’s what he’s been. Three fouls.
“I’m beginning to think he’s afraid of the moment.”
There was no better illustration of that than with a minute left in the first quarter when Simmons passed up an opportunity at the rim to instead pass to teammate Yuta Watanabe.
“You see the lack of aggression from Ben Simmons, and it’s such a striking contrast to watch him,” Burke said.
“There are times when he’s completely gone on the offensive end of the floor. He averaged about 10 drives a game to become a three-time All-Star in a Philly jersey. (Now) he’s about 3.5 drives per game and it’s hard to see.
“He’s become a role player, an excellent defender, but a role player.”
Simmons showed just how valuable he can be in the third quarter as he and teammate Seth Curry kept the Nets in the game in the minutes without Kyrie Irving on the floor.
Irving told reporters after the game that Brooklyn looked “very good” when Simmons was at his aggressive best, as he was in the third quarter.
“We’re seeing flashes,” Irving said.
“We’re all seeing glimpses and we just want him to keep it going.”
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The same goes for Nets coach Vaughn, who said Simmons “showed an ability to play with more power” in the quarter, but also needs to find a way to do it more consistently.
Vaughn left Simmons on the bench for the final nine minutes of the game and told reporters the decision had more to do with Brooklyn being down and needing more shooting opportunities.
However, the Nets coach also touched on what he made of Simmons’ performance as a whole, and whether he has given the Australian any specific advice on how to assert himself more.
“That’s the message I was talking about before the game,” he said.
“We’re going to make every guy, and that includes Ben, value every possession and play hard every possession. Just because you play the first half doesn’t mean you have to play the second half.
“We really want to get to a point where your teammate is depending on you, depending on you doing your job every single, every single possession. Ben showed the ability to play with more power in the second half, which paid off, which is what we need.”
Vaughn also suggested it’s less about him telling Simmons what to do and more about giving the 26-year-old room to think about his game and eventually change his mindset on the court.
“You become what you think about,” Vaughn said, sending a clear message to Simmons.
“So if you think about being aggressive, you’ll be aggressive. If you think about being a good teammate, you’ll be a good teammate. If you think about competing and playing hard, you’ll do those things. You’ll be, what you think about.”
Thursday’s game was the first time Simmons had shared the court with Joel Embiid and James Harden since the blockbuster that sent him to Brooklyn in the first place.
The Australian was booed relentlessly by Sixers fans every time he touched the ball, and the crowd certainly had all eyes on Simmons as he guarded Embiid at various moments during the game.
“(The crowd) was like a party,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said after the game.
“It was fun. That’s when I turned to the coaches and said ‘this is a boxing crowd tonight’. They want to see them drop the basketball, turn around and punch it out.”
The fans probably would have booed every breath out of him if they could, such is the city’s hatred for Simmons, who requested a trade last season amid a strained relationship with Embiid and was traded to the Nets for Harden.
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Embiid, returning to the lineup after sitting out their last game with foot soreness, was largely outplayed by Nic Claxton, who had a career-high 25 points on 11-for-12 shooting while adding 11 rebounds and two blocks.
The Nets trailed by 17 in the third quarter and were still down 116-102 in the fourth before an 18-4 blitz tied the game. But they couldn’t get over the hump, giving up an 8-2 run right behind.
An Irving bucket cut the Sixers’ lead to 133-131 with 45 seconds left, but Harden followed with a finger roll to essentially ice it.
Curry, who arrived with Simmons in the Harden deal, led the Nets with 32 points on 7-for-10 shooting from behind the arc. Irving added 30 points and 10 assists.
Maxey had 27 points and Embiid scored 26 on subpar six-for-18 shooting for the Sixers (31-16). Harden finished with 23 points — eight in the fourth quarter — and seven assists.
– with New York Post