Simmons has personal, team goals snatched away

Simmons has personal, team goals snatched away


CHICAGO — It appeared Ben Simmons was just putting the finishing touches on his fourth career triple-double after a span midway through the fourth quarter when he showed off all facets of his versatile game.

Simmons and the 76ers looked to have to everything in control Monday in Chicago when they overcame a 12-point second-half deficit to build a nine-point lead with 5:51 left in the fourth quarter.

Simmons, who sparked a 13-2 fourth-quarter run, took a page out of the absent Joel Embiid's book by staring down Paul Zipser after a layup to give the Sixers a two-point lead with 7:52 remaining. Simmons then blocked Justin Holiday's shot to set up a three-pointer by Jerryd Bayless, and capped it off with another layup over Bobby Portis to extend the lead to seven. 

Simmons also gave Portis the stare-down treatment while heading into a Chicago timeout. After a pair of Bulls free throws, Simmons grabbed an offensive rebound to set up a four-point play for Bayless to give the Sixers that nine-point advantage.

Simmons’ silent trash talk was ultimately premature. Despite being unofficially credited with a triple-double, following the game his stats were altered as he finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in a 117-115 loss after Chicago put together a late 16-2 run (see observations). The loss dropped the Sixers below .500 (14-15) for the first time since Oct. 30.

Simmons had a chance to tie or get the Sixers a win, but he missed a contested layup with 0.5 seconds left on the clock (see highlights).

“I tried to get to the rim and draw a foul, but it's hard to get a foul in the final quarter of a game like that,” Simmons said. “They're not going to call anything like that. It was a chance to win, but it didn't happen.”

The Sixers had no answer for Nikola Mirotic and Kris Dunn down the stretch as the Chicago Bulls extended their improbable winning streak to six games.

The Bulls are undefeated with Mirotic in the lineup. He got knocked out by Portis in a preseason practice, and the Bulls have won all six games since his return.

Dario Saric tried to keep the 76ers in the game with 27 points and six rebounds (see highlights).

Saric made a three-pointer with 39.4 seconds left to get the game within two, but Simmons couldn't capitalize after a defensive stop.

Saric scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, and was involved in what could've been a flagrant foul when he was pounded by Portis on a layup attempt with 3:49 left.

“I thought it was, and I asked for a review,” 76ers head coach Brett Brown said. “They said that Dario already had the ball at the free throw line and it was too late. But we'll see it in the light of day. It was my gut feel that it was. I'll be very disappointed if I go back and see the tape and I feel like I'm right.”

The Sixers were limited without Embiid, who sat out the first game of a back-to-back set. Trevor Booker and Furkan Korkmaz also missed game. Korkmaz is out indefinitely with a left foot injury and Booker missed the game after spraining his left ankle on Friday. 

That trio of players joined Justin Anderson and Markelle Fultz on the shelf for this matchup, which left the Sixers severely shorthanded.

Despite the lack of bodies, seven of the nine Sixers that took the court scored in double figures. 

Even with balanced effort, Brown was still in awe of Simmons’ all-around performance in the defeat.

"To think he can put up his signature on an NBA game like he does with so much room for improvement in some skill areas is exciting,” Brown said.

Sixers bringing 'bunker mentality' into road playoff setting

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Sixers bringing 'bunker mentality' into road playoff setting

You’ve witnessed the Miami scenes. 

The pristine beaches, exciting nightlife, eclectic cuisine. The list goes on.

It all adds up to one of the best destination experiences in the United States.

And the Sixers don’t want anything to do with it.

This is a business trip.

Scratch that. This is battle.

“It just becomes, I think, a little bit more insular, a little bit more of a bunker mentality,” Brett Brown said at Wednesday’s practice. “It’s a little bit more of trying to minimize distractions. You’re not in your own bedroom. You’re not in your own sort of comfort zone, your own routine, rhythm to your day.

“It’s a huge part of young players figuring out life on the road and it certainly gets exacerbated in the playoffs. But I like it. I like the mentality and the spirit of being together. I think we have a very close team and I think it forces you to become even closer when you’re just not at home.”

Games 3 and 4 inside AmericanAirlines Arena will feel like anywhere but home for the Sixers. In the first road playoff game for this young team, the players will have to deal with crowd noise and an extremely physical opponent.

The volume will subside as the Sixers are able to string together baskets, and they know the only way to do that is take the smart approach to the Heat’s increased physicality.

“It doesn’t have to be macho vs. macho,” Brown said. “That’s not how we want to play. We want to have an intellectual response to physicality. It can mean speed, it can mean space, it can mean the technique of just creating a lead and getting open. A simple jab step and putting your arm in somebody’s chest and throwing out a lead hand as an example of stuff you’d learn in eighth grade. But it all equals fundamentals, poise, technique, that stuff to combat physicality.

“It’s not they punch you, you punch them, they punch … it’s not that at all."

“You don’t want to do anything that can put yourself in a predicament, allow someone to get hurt,” Robert Covington said. “Nobody wants to get fined, nobody wants to be on the back end of something like that because it can be retaliation that can come from it. You have to play smart and just have to sit up here and do it different ways. You cannot get caught up in the moment and do something crazy.”

Whatever physical tactics the Heat attempt, the Sixers promise they’ll be ready this time around.

“I’ve got a few hits for people coming their way,” Ben Simmons said.

“I’m ready to play.”

Sixers officially list Joel Embiid as doubtful for Game 3

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Sixers officially list Joel Embiid as doubtful for Game 3

MIAMI — Just over 24 hours before the Sixers face off against the Heat in Game 3, Joel Embiid was listed as doubtful because of a left orbital fracture, or a 75 percent he will not play. That doesn’t mean, though, that status won’t change.

Embiid went through his second straight day of light practice Wednesday shortly after the team arrived in Miami. The Sixers will hold morning shootaround Thursday and could evaluate him again in pregame warmups before he is ruled in or out. 

Embiid was knocking down threes prior to the start of practice. 

Brett Brown said Embiid did a “little bit” of contact work Tuesday and handled it “quite well.” Conditioning is also a big part of his return. Embiid has not played in a game since March 28 when he suffered the fracture and a concussion. 

“It’s going to take time getting hit fitness up,” Brown said. “I think because he is an athlete, whenever the time comes where he does play, I think it’ll move in a more rapid way. I think his body looks great … I feel like it’ll kick in quicker than most.”

Embiid expressed his frustrations of being sidelined with an Instagram post shortly after the Sixers lost Game 2. They had previously won nine straight without him, which helped with his patience. 

“His spirit was very high,” Robert Covington said of his first practice. “Overall, he felt really good and we felt really good to have him out there with us.”

Embiid will have to shake off some rust when he does return. He thrives on consistent action to stay in game shape, and he’s been out for three weeks. If he’s not at 100 percent when he plays, Brown could see him still making an impact. 

“Defensively, he immediately comes in and changes the landscape,” Brown said. “The game is being played so fast right now and he has not been with us for a while, so I think the adjustment offensively might be a little more noticeable than defensively initially. He’s so gifted and he’s intelligent. He really is as smart and as instinctive a player as I’ve coached. He can look at something without doing it and then go do it.”

The Sixers are expecting another physical matchup with the Heat, especially with the next two games being in Miami. Embiid’s tough play would help them in that aspect as they try to take another series lead. The team has an approach, though, even if he cannot battle on the court. 

“It doesn’t have to be macho versus macho,” Brown said. “That’s not how we want to play. We want to have an intellectual response to physicality." 

The Sixers are looking for their first win of the season in Miami.