Ben Simmons has averaged 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 2.4 steals this postseason. Miami tried everything. Full-court pressure, traps, trash talk. Nothing slowed down the 21-year-old point guard. Philadelphia won the series Tuesday night, and Simmons was the major reason why.
The most impressive aspect of Simmons has been his demeanor. He truly acts like a veteran even though its his first taste of the NBA playoffs. In the second quarter of Game 2, Miami appeared to have cracked the code. The Heat denied Simmons 94-feet from the basket, frustrating the six-foot-10 phenom. Miami won the quarter 34-13. It was ugly, just like Miami wanted it to be. Philadelphia tried to crawl back, and nearly did, but the Heat won by 10 points as Dwyane Wade carried Miami. Simmons, despite the extra attention, finished with 24 points. Miami’s strategy worked well in the second quarter, but Simmons managed to fight through the adversity. Just like he’s done all season.
In Saturday’s Game 4 win, Simmons didn’t assert himself offensively in the first half. He found open shooters in Dario Saric, Robert Covington and JJ Redick in the first 24 minutes, but Simmons only had two points at halftime. Philadelphia was out of sorts on offense, turning the ball over a staggering 17 times in the first half. Joel Embiid was brutal, missing nine shots throughout the game. Ersan Ilyasova had his own 6-0 run to end the third quarter, which jumpstarted the 76ers comeback. It was Simmons, though, who ultimately won the game for Philadelphia. Redick may have rung the bell in the 76ers’ locker room following the win, a tradition reserved for the player of the game in head coach Brett Brown’s eyes. Redick made the jumper off an Embiid screen to extended Philadelphia’s lead to three with 30 seconds left. Shortly after, Redick crashed the glass to secure a Wade missed free throw. Redick calmly then hit two free throws to give Philadelphia the 106-102 win.
Simmons had nine fourth quarter points, including this terrific jumper.
Simmons had been solid in fourth quarters through four games, averaging 6.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists while shooting 66.7 percent from the field. Simmons doesn’t appear tired at the end of games. Tuesday night, in the series clinching win, Simmons had foul trouble. As Simmons sat, the 76ers built a substantial lead. Miami made things interesting in the end, but Philadelphia managed to win 104-91.
Earlier in Tuesday’s game, Simmons made the plays fans have been accustomed to him making. Consider his pass to Covington in the second quarter:
Even though the 76ers appeared to have control of the first half, they weren’t making shots. With the game tied, Philadelphia needed a spark. Philadelphia worked the ball to Simmons in the short corner or in the post to generate offense. Here’s Simmons with a pass to Covington to put Philadelphia up six. The 76ers led by as many as 18 in the third.
Simmons didn’t appear fazed by Miami’s physical play all series. James Johnson tried to spook Simmons in Game 4. Goran Dragic literally slapped Simmons upside the head like he was Marshall Eriksen. Justice Winslow did everything he could to get under the 6-10 point guard’s skin. Nothing worked. Boston or Milwaukee awaits in Round 2. Philadelphia earned some rest. It’s just one series, but things have opened up for the 76ers. Whether it’s Boston without its best players, or Cleveland and Toronto stuck in 2-2 series. Or maybe it’s just the fact that 21-year-old Simmons is already a star. (Embiid, too).