The Philadelphia 76ers will look to turn the page quickly on Tuesday night’s lopsided loss and close out their grueling six-game road trip with a win. They get the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 1.
Before they do, let’s revisit one of the most interesting plays of the year. Midway through the second quarter, Tyrese Maxey was streaking down the court when Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo threw an elbow screen into Ben Simmons’ chest while running at full speed. The refs hid the whistles as Simmons lay on the floor lobbying hard for a foul.
After the game, a jovial Simmons said the refs told him at halftime that a foul should have been called. Then the Sixers star fired a semi-warning shot at Campazzo. Little guys beware.
“I don’t think too much of it. It is what it is,” Simmons said. “He’s a feisty little mother [laughing, pause] … he’s a feisty little guy. I like that. I like it when guys are rough and physical. At the same time, if they are going to be physical, they got to let us be physical. Because if they are going to let me be physical against somebody like that, it’s not going to end right.”
Simmons didn’t retaliate on the court, but the implication was clear. Smaller players get preferential treatment from the refs. Imagine if the roles had been reversed and 6-foot-11 Simmons had trucked 5-foot-10 Campazzo. The Nuggets would probably have a new addition to the injury report.
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Simmons Not Injured, Just Slumping
Doc Rivers denied Simmons was still suffering from any soreness in his left knee, a non-serious injury that sidelined him for one game on March 20. No, the All-Star guard is just mired in a bit of a slump on the backend of this road trip.
“I think he’s healthy,” Rivers said. “He has to play better. We all have to play better.”
The 24-year-old scored 11 points on Tuesday night to go along with three assists and two rebounds. Simmons is averaging 11.6 points, 5.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds over his last three games. That’s down from 15.7 points, 7.4 assists, 7.8 rebounds for the year. And Simmons knows it, giving a very blunt assessment of his recent play.
“I got to get my s*** together,” Simmons said. “We got to get back on track as a team.”
The Sixers can finish up the six-game road trip at 4-2 with a win over Cleveland on Thursday night. However, the Cavaliers have beat them in two previous contests this year.
“We won three on this road trip and we have one more to win,” Rivers said. “We have a chance to go plus .500 on this road trip without Joel [Embiid], so that’s what we should be focused on.”
Sixers First Unit Looked Awful, Tired
Rivers gave an equally honest answer when asked to evaluate his team’s performance in Denver. The scoreboard (Nuggets 104, Sixers 95) showed a much closer score than how it actually played out. Philly was down 44-22 after the first quarter in what was their worst start to any game this season.
“It was one of those games where we were running in quicksand,” Rivers said. “They attacked us early, you know, we never really recovered from it. We just had an awful game, and we haven’t had many of those, but tonight was one of them.”
The second unit provided a spark in the fourth quarter and cut a 17-point deficit all the way down to six points. But it was fool’s gold as the Nuggets eventually closed them out in relatively easy fashion. Simmons pinned the slow start on the Mile High altitude in Denver.
“The altitude. I think that was the first thing,” Simmons said. “I think guys were a little shook and tired at the start. That affects your communication, got a little tired, but we just didn’t come to play.”
Tyrese Maxey, Shake Milton Show Positives
Looking for a few positives after the Sixers’ worst loss of the year? Tyrese Maxey provided a huge spark off the bench and scored 13 points in 16 minutes for a +15. Meanwhile, Shake Milton went for 10 points with four assists and two rebounds. It wasn’t enough to notch the victory but it didn’t go unnoticed by the starting group.
“For a moment, we thought that they were going to do it which is a good sign,” Simmons said. “The young guys came in ready and they were hooping so it was good to see.”
Sixers forward Tobias Harris blamed it on their energy levels being too low. Like Simmons, he credited the second unit for giving them a fighter’s chance at the end.
“We were flat out all night, up until the fourth quarter where we had that run there with the unit we had out there,” Harris said. “But myself and the starters, our energy wasn’t where we needed it to be. We didn’t have enough pop to us, didn’t have enough juice in the game.”