76ers

Ben Simmons has unreal performance, posting triple-double in Sixers' thrilling win over Nets

Ben Simmons has unreal performance, posting triple-double in Sixers' thrilling win over Nets

BOX SCORE

With how well Ben Simmons has played with Joel Embiid out, he's still been the target of scrutiny.

More performances like Monday's ought to quiet some of that down.

The Sixers used a dominant defensive effort after halftime and a virtuoso Simmons performance to beat the Nets in a thrilling 117-111 win at Barclays Center on Martin Luther King Day.

They held Brooklyn to just 43 points in the second half. It’s their second straight road win to improve to 9-14 away from the Wells Fargo Center and 29-16 overall.

The Sixers head to Toronto Wednesday to take on the Raptors (7 p.m./NBCSP)

Here are observations from the win:

Simmons dominates

Early on, it didn’t seem like the Sixers did enough to take advantage of their size offensively. With the Nets opting to use center Jarrett Allen on Simmons and Taurean Prince on Al Horford, Horford seemed to have an advantage. With Simmons, it seemed like he could’ve used his speed and quickness more to attack Allen.

That changed during that duo’s second-quarter run. Simmons was more aggressive, and Horford made his only shot attempts of the period. In the third quarter, Brett Brown used Simmons at the five and it worked wonders. With rookie Nicolas Claxton in the game, Simmons was attacking the basket and finishing with authority.

Overall, the freshly-minted Eastern Conference Player of the Week was outstanding. He recorded his fourth triple-double of the season, tying a career-high with 34 points (12 of 14), 12 assists and 12 rebounds. He missed his first two free throws but then made 10 of his next 12.

Defensively, he continues to dominate. Spencer Dinwiddie, a notorious Sixer killer, was just 6 of 17 for 22 points. Simmons had five steals and two blocks, but that doesn’t even tell the story. He shifted the entire momentum of the game with his defense and made everything difficult for Brooklyn. This was arguably the finest performance of his career.

Horford showing his worth

If you’re looking for a game that demonstrated Horford’s value to the Sixers, this is it. Joel Embiid missed his seventh straight game while two-way player Norvel Pelle was not active as his 45 NBA days are dwindling.

Horford, who was questionable coming in with a sprained left hand, was sharp defensively in defending the pick-and-roll. Most impressive were his defensive possessions where he was switched onto one of the Nets’ dangerous guards. Overall, Horford was outstanding, going for 19 points on 9 of 15. He made a couple huge shots down the stretch.

When Horford came out with two early fouls, the players behind him didn’t have that much luck. Veteran Kyle O’Quinn got the first crack and struggled to protect the rim and play the pick-and-roll. Brown turned to little-used Jonah Bolden. 

Bolden, who was seeing his first NBA action since November and really his first meaningful minutes this season, also struggled early. To the second-year big man’s credit, he hung in there and was much better in his second stint. It was a tough ask. Considering the circumstances, Bolden handled it well.

Thybulle progressing and impressing

Matisse Thybulle has been so impressive on the defensive end this season. With that said, this was some of the best basketball he’s played. Like with Simmons, the four steals and block don’t tell the story. Thybulle was everywhere. He wreaked havoc and was a big part of the Sixers cutting a 12-point deficit to four in the first half.

What’s been so impressive about Thybulle is the way he’s adjusted in his first NBA season. He’s been disruptive from the jump, but the way he’s learned to guard different types of players is amazing. Sharpshooter Joe Harris learned his lesson when Thybulle got him for a block last week. Harris was attempting to take advantage of Thybulle’s aggressiveness by attacking closeouts. It seemed to throw off Harris, who went just 1 of 5 from three.

The bench turns it around

The Sixers’ bench was badly outplayed in the first half as Claxton and former Sixer Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot gave Brooklyn a big boost. The lineup Brown has used that features Josh Richardson and four reserves just hasn’t looked good.

Furkan Korkmaz has been red hot. He was up and down in this one but made a huge three down the stretch to help the Sixers close the game out. Mike Scott showed some signs off life, hitting a pair of threes and grabbing five offensive rebounds.

In addition to Simmons’ dominance, the bench turning their play around in the second half was huge.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

Updated: Tuesday, 5:09 p.m.

We now have a diagnosis on Ben Simmons' injury. Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, a team source confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia (see story). Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news.

Speaking before the Sixers' win Monday night over the Hawks, head coach Brett Brown was unsure how long the injury would sideline Simmons. The 23-year-old sustained the injury at practice Wednesday going up for a rebound, according to Brown, and irritated it in the first quarter of Saturday night’s game against the Bucks.

“I don’t know,” Brown said. “And it really is like how long is a piece of string — who knows? Who knows? … Whatever the time equals on days, games, period of time, we can talk more honestly as this thing shakes out.”

However, it sounded as if Brown was preparing for his two-time All-Star point guard to be out for a while. He framed the situation as one the Sixers can cope with if other players take advantage of the chance to play expanded roles.

There’s 25 games left. … It’s an eternity,” he said. “Just keep going back to the end game. What’s the bottom line? I’ll say it again — if you get their health and their spirit, it’s got a chance to equal form. … And it’s all about landing the plane. And so with 25 games left, we’ve taken a hit with Ben. 

"I do see it this way. I’m not spinning it. It’s an opportunity for us to learn and something will emerge. And we need something to emerge. It’s not like we were all saying, ‘Oh, here it is, it’s anointed.’ It wasn’t that. So, I think we’re going to learn something and find something. If this was six games out, I wouldn’t be telling you this story. When it’s 25 games out, it is, with all my heart, what I think. That’s what I said to the team, that’s what I really think and that’s what I’m going to try to pull off.

Who specifically will take over ball handling duties? Brown said it “will be done by committee” for the time being, and he named a few players who he expects to be in that mix. Monday night, the team started Shake Milton, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Joel Embiid. 

“The candidates could be Raul Neto or [Furkan Korkmaz] or Alec Burks or J-Rich, Shake," he said. "So, you have capable people that aren’t traditional point guards but have the ability to get the ball up the floor. Then at that point, you’re probably going to have to be in something that has motion and continuity instead of just giving Chris Paul the ball and saying, ‘Go to work’ out of a pick-and-roll, as an example.”

Regardless of Brown’s attitude, the tangible impact of not having Simmons will clearly be significant. He leads the league in steals, has assisted on the most three-pointers and is a highly athletic, versatile and talented player.

The loss of all those attributes will no doubt be difficult to overcome.

“When there is a vacuum, as there is right now with Ben, something will happen,” Brown said. “Somebody will step up. I’m trying to see the world through those eyes, and I really do — it’s not even creative coach speak. I see it as an opportunity, and I think I need to see it that way.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons suffered nerve impingement in lower back

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons suffered nerve impingement in lower back

Ben Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back and will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks, a team source confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Simmons will undergo daily treatment. 

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports “there's little expectation that [Simmons would] be ready to return to lineup that soon,” and says “doctors are hopeful treatment can drive improvement, but Sixers are preparing to play without him." 

According to head coach Brett Brown, Simmons was first injured at the team’s practice last Wednesday. The 23-year-old All-Star missed the team’s first game after the All-Star break, a win Thursday over the Nets. 

“It was a play where he went up for a rebound and I looked over and he left the court, and went and got treatment,” Brown said Thursday. “And it has played out as it has played out. We don’t believe it’s anything too significant.”

Simmons sat out the Sixers’ game vs. the Nets on Thursday and played Saturday in Milwaukee. He appeared to be in discomfort after drawing a foul in the first quarter on the Bucks’ Brook Lopez. The 23-year-old stayed in the game to make 1 of 2 free throws, then exited when Matisse Thybulle committed a foul to create a stoppage of play and ensure Simmons could return to the locker room.

Ahead of the game against the Bucks, Simmons had averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds and a league-best 2.2 steals. He’d played 36.3 minutes per game, most on the Sixers and third-highest in the NBA ahead of Saturday’s games. 

Brown talked before the Sixers’ win Monday over the Hawks as if he was prepared for a long-term absence. He said the team would split up ball handling responsibilities by committee, with Shake Milton, Josh Richardson and Alec Burks among the possible candidates. Milton started on Monday. 

The 36-22 Sixers are fifth in the Eastern Conference and play the Cavaliers on Wednesday night in Cleveland. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers