PHILADELPHIA – Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Sacramento Kings 123-114 on Friday night in one of the most balanced scoring nights in franchise history.
All five starters for Philadelphia scored at least 18 points; tonight marks the first time that the Sixers have accomplished such a feat in 33 years. Simmons finished with 18 points, five assists and zero turnovers, while Joel Embiid starred 21 points and 17 rebounds.
The most interesting Simmons-related development tonight came from Brett Brown switching up the Sixers playing rotation. For the first time all season, Simmons played all 36 of his minutes alongside Joel Embiid. Speaking after the game, Brown cited his desire for experimentation as the impetus for tweaking his rotation.
“I was just trying to look at things so that by, say Game 12 [remaining in the season], you’re able to feel comfortable about a look and by Game 10, you’re able to really scrutinise it and lock something down for the final ten games.
“It’s driven by a lot of different factors. Some gut feels, some analytics. Certainly, pairings with shooters and how do we feature, as an example, Jimmy [Butler] more on that pairing and let him do some more things with the ball. So, that type of thought process went into how we subbed tonight.”
Entering tonight, the Simmons-Embiid pairing averaged 22 minutes per game, which is approximately two thirds of Simmons’ court time. The duo have a plus-8 net rating when together this season and Simmons was thrilled to spend more time alongside his fellow All-Star.
“We are just getting ready for playoffs,” Simmons said. “Just trying to play with a few things in terms of substitutions and where and how I’m fitting in during the game, so I think we are doing a decent job so far.”
Jimmy Butler played one of his most impactful games as a Sixer, finishing with 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds. After receiving the night off against Cleveland during the week, Butler entered tonight with a five day break between games and the time off aided his performance.
“My body felt good and we were rolling,” Butler said. “I think everyone was comfortable and we realise how important each and every single one of these games is down the stretch. It’s time to take it up a notch or two.”
The most impressive aspect of Simmons game came with his zero turnovers. Simmons played 35 minutes and 44 seconds against Sacramento and, for only the sixth time in his NBA career, finished without a turnover. The Australia smiled when learning of this fact postgame, while his head coach praised the accomplishment.
“I feel that Ben, tonight, was mindful [reducing turnovers],” said Brown. “We need him to continue that, we really need him to continue that because our turnovers point to many different problems.”
Simmons paid tribute to victims of yesterday’s terrorist attack in Christchurch by donning a pair of black and white sneakers, the national colours of New Zealand. His right shoe had the phrase “PRAY FOR NZ” written on the side. Speaking postgame, Simmons spoke about his shock on learning about the incident.
“It’s devastating. It’s sad for those families. My dad isn’t from Australia, but I grew up [in Australia]. I’ve been to New Zealand. They are great people there. All over the world, people are just living their lives and for someone to take away 49 people is really sad.”
Philadelphia will head to Milwaukee on Sunday for a showdown with the Milwaukee Bucks, who at 52-17 currently own the best record in the NBA. Brown is looking forward to the challenge and claims it will be a fantastic opportunity to learn more about his playing roster.
“I can’t wait, because I think it is a reality check,” said Brown. “It really is an opportunity for us to see where we are at. That is why I like those type of games. You want to play Milwaukee, Toronto, Boston, Indiana… you can really get a gauge of where you are really at. I look at this game mostly on those terms.”
The Bucks and Sixers will tip off at 630am (AEDT) Monday morning in Australia.