Sometimes the best messages are unspoken ones. Ben Simmons put on a dominant performance for the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 2. They beat the Washington Wizards 120-95 to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.
Simmons surely would have tallied a triple-double if head coach Doc Rivers didn’t pull his starters for the entire fourth quarter. The All-Star point guard finished just one rebound and two assists shy: 22 points, nine rebounds, eight assists.
It had to feel good for Simmons to bust loose with 12 first-quarter points after catching heat all week from a few incensed (read: knuckleheaded) Philly fans who complained about his six-point performance in Game 1. Never mind that Simmons filled up the stat sheet with 15 rebounds and 15 assists.
The 24-year-old had every right to gloat after Game 2. He had every opportunity to do it, too. With a slew of reporters trying to goad him into a knee-jerk reaction, Simmons took the high road. Well, mostly.
“I’m not trying to stick it to anybody in Philly,” Simmons told reporters on Wednesday night. “I thought it was pretty hard to get 15 assists and 15 rebounds in the NBA, in the playoffs, and we won. So I mean, what y’all want? You want to win or not? I don’t know.
“For me, I’m here to win and help my team win whatever it is and I’m going to do that every night. I’m not trying to prove anybody wrong or anything like that. I’m going out there trying to do my job and win a championship.”
“Nah, that didn’t motivate me because what I did the first game, my guys were scoring,” Simmons said. “Tobias [Harris] was scoring. Joel [Embiid] was scoring. I mean, that’s the point of basketball. When people are feeling it, you got to give them the ball.
“And I’m not surprised Doc [Rivers] said that because Doc knows the game, and a lot of these people that are saying it, never even touched a basketball or never even played the game at a high level. That would be like me telling you something about your work or your job.”
Simmons pulled the ultimate mic drop by turning the tables. He blanketed the subject matter, thus adding another layer to his mounting case for Defensive Player of the Year.
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Joel Embiid Encouraged Simmons to Attack
Simmons has always been the facilitator for the Sixers on offense. His job is to read the defense and decide whether he needs to be in attack mode or if it’s more prudent to find open shooters. With the Wizards sending double and triple teams at Sixers center Joel Embiid, Simmons had an easy choice to make. And Embiid was encouraging the star point guard to be aggressive from the jump.
“In the first game, he took what the defense gave him and made plays, he got guys open. He had 15 assists,” Embiid said. “And tonight, he saw they didn’t want to leave me alone and he saw that he had a lot of space, with a one-on-one matchup [with Bradley Beal], and he took advantage of it and that’s great. We’re going to need him to keep being aggressive and dominating.”
Simmons said he appreciated the big man’s trust in him. It’s another manifestation of their growing and improved chemistry. He also noticed that the Wizards were “falling asleep” on defense whenever he brought the ball down the court.
“That’s trust. I trust him, he trusts me,” Simmons said of Embiid. “It’s one of those things where I knew I had six points in the first game. I knew I had 15 assists and they were expecting me to find my guys and get my guys shots and they were falling asleep a lot of times when I came down the floor so I had to capitalize on that. And that’s what I did tonight.”
Beal and Embiid Exchanged Words in Game 2
Russell Westbrook was his usual agitator self — jawing with Dwight Howard and others — before exiting with an ankle injury. One unruly Sixers fan tossed popcorn at him on the way down the tunnel to the locker room, too. That person was thrown out and will likely be reprimanded further. But Westbrook wasn’t the only Wizards player causing trouble.
Bradley Beal was seen mixing it up with Embiid (carry-over from Game 1?) in the third quarter after he thought he was fouled on a drive. Nothing was called, but Beal let his frustration be known. And Embiid quickly and comically diffused the tense situation.
“He was trying to complain that he didn’t get a call and I just told him to just shut up because it wasn’t a foul,” Embiid said. “It is whatever, we’re having fun, trying to dominate so a little trash talk doesn’t hurt.”
In fact, Embiid welcomes more trash talk in Game 3 on Saturday night. He thrives under those conditions.
“I love playing on the road because people boo you, they talk trash,” Embiid said. “For me personally, it makes me play even better because I want to shut them up.”