Ben Simmons 1; Joe Ingles 0.
Ben Simmons turned in another controlling performance and lead his Philadelphia 76ers to an impressive 104-97 win over Joe Ingles and the Utah Jazz. This was the first match-up between two of Australia’s NBA stars and bragging rights now rest with the rookie.
While Simmons’ statistical output-- 16 points (7/22 FG), 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks-- is nothing to sneeze at, it has almost become expected. The 6'10 rookie joined Oscar Robertson as the only player to start their career with 10 consecutive games with at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
The young Australian continues to impact the game in a variety of ways. With Joel Embiid missing because of rest, Simmons was more aggressive on offence. His 22 field goal attempts represent the highest total of his career.
More shots came at the expense of personal efficiency, as Simmons occasionally let ambition get the better of him. This led to a flurry of missed jumpers and ill-advised attempts at the rim. Simmons acknowledged his struggles post-game, while lamenting on aspects of his performance.
“That’s probably the worst game, individually, that I’ve played since I’ve been in the league,” Simmons explained.
“Too many turnovers and missed shots. Defensive missed opportunities, but we still won so I’m happy.”
Despite the displeasure at his own performance, Simmons led the 76ers to their fifth consecutive win, and perhaps, the most impressive one of this streak. This victory was built on the back of a dominant defensive effort.
In the absence of Embiid, there was a commitment to the defensive end, with Philadelphia holding their opponents to 30% shooting from the field.
With each passing game, Simmons is adjusting to the speed of NBA basketball, and his comfort level on defence is growing. The Jazz are bereft of quality ball-handlers, and Simmons, along with Robert Covington, smothered their opponents. It was a constant theme throughout the contest, and was highlighted when the Jazz mounted a last ditch comeback attempt.
In a 30 seconds stretch during the fourth quarter, Simmons flashed the two way potential that removes his ceiling as a player. On one possession he toyed with Rubio in transition, baiting him into a reckless pass, before stepping into the passing lane and stealing the basketball.
Next time down the floor, Simmons did this.
This is All-NBA level defence. Plays like this underpin Simmons’ defensive potential and should excite everyone with a vested interest in his development. The footwork was crisp all game. Simmons’ ability to glide around the defence and switch with ease made him a constant threat. The Jazz were sloppy with the ball, and Simmons made them pay many times over, something which led to thunderous acts against the rim.
When asked about this exact play in the postgame interview, Simmons noted he has “plenty more of those.” The NBA better look out.
Ingles finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists for a Jazz side that couldn’t generate enough offence to stay with the 76ers. Utah’s offense was diabolically off-target, with the trifecta of Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio and Rodney Hood combining to shoot 10/49 for the game. Yikes!
Immediately following the final whistle, Simmons and Ingles shared a special moment for some #AussieLove.
This was far from Simmons best performance. As he noted post game, this was actually one of the worst offensive games of his young career. Yet despite his struggles shooting the ball, Simmons was clearly the best player on the court in Salt Lake City.
We saw Simmons play like an elite defender for an entire game. That is more telling than a bad night shooting the basketball.