It’s not often that a guy makes headlines for hitting his lone 3-point attempt of the game, especially when it doesn’t tie the game or give his team the lead.
But when you’re the notoriously reticent to shoot Ben Simmons, you make SportsCenter for it.
Yes, it was only the fourth 3-pointer he’s made in his career. Two came last season, and this was his second this year. Yes, the Sixers lost in overtime to the Hawks.
Just as it’s too early to write off the Lakers, there’s no point in over-analyzing midseason losses by the Sixers, or by the Jazz on Friday night.
Whether or not Simmons truly incorporates the occasional trey into his game remains to be seen, but what is certain is he’s been playing the best ball of his career. His coach, Doc Rivers, explained it in an article in Forbes earlier this month;
“You have to watch the game to see how many times you miss him on both ends,” Rivers said after the game in reference to Simmons. “How many times did we get the ball off a rebound, somebody pushed it up, to get into the paint and lead to a three? We couldn’t get to the paint tonight offensively. That’s what Ben does. Ben’s ability leads us to take threes. He doesn’t necessarily take them; he creates them.”
Rivers is spot-on in that assessment. Simmons leads the league with 93 assists on three-pointers, seven ahead of the next-closest player (Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic). He also ranks seventh leaguewide in total points generated from his assists (427).
He’s gotten better since that article. Simmons scored a career-high 42 in a game Joel Embiid missed against the Jazz on Feb. 15. Including that night, he’s averaged 24.8 ppg on 60.5 percent shooting to go with 7.4 rebounds and 7.8 assists. Oh and Doncic? Simmons held the MVP candidate to 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting in a 111-97 Sixers win on Thursday.
The Sixers are far from perfect, but when they’re healthy, they’re dangerous, and nearly unbeatable this season. With Embiid playing at an otherworldly level and Simmons continuing to show growth (remember when the Sixers just had to trade Simmons because the two couldn’t play together?), they’re well-positioned for a run to the Eastern Conference finals and maybe more this season.