One day the entire city is dogging Ben Simmons for not making free throws. The next one? Well, that same city is chanting his name after the Philadelphia 76ers punched their ticket to the second round of the playoffs. Freakin’ insane.
Simmons tallied the third triple-double of his playoff career during the Sixers’ 129-112 win in Game 5. He registered 19 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, plus two blocks and one steal in 39 minutes against the Washington Wizards. Philadelphia is moving on to face the Atlanta Hawks sometime next week.
It was a bit of vindication for Simmons who faced mostly unfair criticism after Game 4. Forget that noise. Simmons started at center for an injured Joel Embiid on Wednesday night and carried the team on his back. Any pressure, Ben?
“Not really pressure, that’s all everybody else talking,” Simmons told reporters. “For me, it’s just coming in and doing my job. I know I got my teammates with me, they all got my back and I got theirs so it was a group effort tonight and everybody stepped up.”
His third postseason triple-double moved him into rare company in Sixers’ franchise history, too. He now ranks second behind only Wilt Chamberlain’s eight.
“Whatever my team needs me to do, wherever they gonna put me, they gonna put me, I make it work,” Simmons said. “I feel like my IQ on the court is so high I can make plays happen.”
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Simmons Comments on Joel Embiid’s Injury
Joel Embiid was spotted taking part in pre-game warmups with the Sixers prior to Game 5. He wasn’t in the layup line or doing anything strenuous, but he was there. He even lined up during a free-throw shooting drill. There’s a ton of optimism the All-Star center could be back as soon as the next round. Cautious optimism, of course.
“He’s positive. He’s got a positive mindset but I’m not a doctor or anything so I don’t know,” Simmons said. “We definitely want him back but if he can’t go, he can’t go. When he’s going to be ready, he’s going to be ready.”
With or wothout Embiid, the Sixers feel like they have all the pieces to win a championship. Then again, they might have no choice.
“I think we have the pieces in place to do it,” Simmons said. “We’ve been in this situation before, you know we didn’t have a full team all season. We know what we have to do and it starts on defense.”
Seth Curry Scores Playoff-High 30 Points
The brightest star of the night belonged to Seth Curry. He scored a playoff career-high 30 points versus the Wizards, all of them timely. Doc Rivers’ son-in-law went 10-of-17 from the field (3-of-6 from three-point range) while holding his own on the defensive end. The impetus for the breakout performance all started with a video game with Simmons earlier in the day.
Simmons disclosed that he and Curry played Call of Duty: War Zone on Wednesday morning, just like they do every day before team shootaround. On this particluar day, Simmons challenged Curry to score 30 points, while the Sixers’ star point guard promised to record a triple-double. They both held up their ends of the bargain.
“I said I need 30 out of you, and we’re going to get the dub.” Simmons said. “No, I’m serious. I knew he was going to have a big game. But he [Curry] came in with that mentality and he did his thing.”