Ben Simmons hits a three, Sixers escape with win over Knicks

Ben Simmons hits a three, Sixers escape with win over Knicks


What a night for Ben Simmons.

The All-Star point guard hit his first NBA three and willed the Sixers to a 109-104 win over the Knicks at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night.

New York’s lead was as large as 17 in the third quarter, but Simmons’ took over the game defensively and Mike Scott got red hot in leading the comeback.

Josh Richardson (hip) was out for Wednesday’s game.

The Sixers improve to 9-5 and will host the Spurs Friday night.

Here are observations from the win.

OK, Ben

Admittedly, nobody knew Simmons would pull the trigger on a three Wednesday night, but it was an aggressive offensive start for the All-Star point guard.

On the first possession of the game, Simmons got veteran Taj Gibson on a switch. Simmons backed him down before taking a short fadeaway in the lane. Brett Brown has talked a lot recently about wanting to see Simmons attack, but that teams have just closed off the paint defensively.

This could help that cause …

He buried that thing. No hesitation and nothing but nylon. It’ll take more than just one make from three to keep defenses honest, but it’s a nice start.

On a night when the Sixers weren’t very good defensively, Simmons was excellent and helped stop the bleeding in the third quarter. With all the talk about his offensive struggles, nobody can deny how Simmons has played on the other end. He was otherworldly Wednesday.

He finished with 18 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds, a block and a steal.

Tough shooting night for Embiid

Despite Joel Embiid’s early shooting struggles, he appeared intent on getting every Knicks frontcourt player fouled out. First it was Gibson, then it was youngster Mitchell Robinson, then Bobby Portis. Despite that dominance, Embiid hit just 3 of his first 10 shots. He did have four assists and just one turnover in the first half.

Embiid mixed it up with Philly native Marcus Morris late in the first half. As Tobias Harris was hitting a midrange jumper, Embiid and Morris were fighting for position underneath. Morris pulled Embiid down by the shoulder and took him to the ground. Both players got up quickly and had words for each other, but the situation did not escalate as the players on the floor and the officials intervened.

Each player was hit with a technical and Morris was called for a Flagrant 1. These players have a history going back to when Morris was with the Celtics and he taunted Embiid in Game 4 while Boston had a 3-0 series lead.

Embiid went just 7 of 19 for the game but had 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.

Up and down Harris

Harris had sort of an uneven game. He hit his first two shots — a corner three on his first touch and then a midrange jumper curling around an Al Horford screen. He then missed his next five shots before hitting 2 of his last 3 to end the half.

He took just two shots in the second half, but made a huge and-one bucket on a drive late in the fourth.

At practice Tuesday, Harris talked about his desire to get to the line more and you can see the concerted effort to draw contact. He’s simply not getting calls. He mentioned that he’s not a flopper and that could be hurting him. He might be right.

Horford and Korkmaz have nights to forget

Horford’s offensive struggles continued early on in this one as he went just 3 of 11. With the Knicks’ slew of power forwards, the Sixers made an effort to get Horford the ball in the post, but the veteran big still couldn’t get shots to fall. He was a team-worst minus-15.

They also didn’t get much out of Furkan Korkmaz tonight. Starting in place of Richardson, Korkmaz wasn’t hitting shots (1 of 5) and was having a tough team on defense. Brown was forced to go to Shake Milton early on in the second half.

Once again, the Sixers’ pick-and-roll defense was poor as guards Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. combined for 30 points. Eventually, Brown had to go to Simmons on Ntilikina to stop the bleeding.

Ennis the Menace is back

As Brown continues to sort his rotation out, James Ennis has stood out over the last few contests. Ennis was really struggling with his shot to start the season and it seemed to leak over into the rest of his play. Lately he’s been giving them a strong spark defensively and continues to clean up on the offensive glass.

This was an outstanding finish in traffic that showed off his athleticism.

Along with Simmons, Ennis was a huge part to the Sixers’ third-quarter run. He finished a team-high plus-15 and added 11 points.

Bench boost

Scott has been a steady reserve for the Sixers all season. On Wednesday, you saw what happens when the man gets hot. 

He made all four of his threes in the second half and played tough defense against the Knicks’ physical forwards.

Brown hinted that we might see Milton come off the bench following his assignment in Delaware that saw him play for the Blue Coats just last night. Milton was mostly a positive, showing off his ability to move without the ball and also his craftiness on a lefty finish in the second quarter.

Trey Burke continues to get the nod over Raul Neto as the team’s backup point guard. Since Neto struggled in Orlando, it appears Brown wants to give Burke a longer look. Against his former team, Burke hit a three and showed off his “waterbug” ability with a couple nice drives. He also took a huge charge in the fourth quarter.

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Tobias Harris keeps the Sixers entertained on their bus ride to Toronto

Tobias Harris keeps the Sixers entertained on their bus ride to Toronto

Around 10:30 p.m. Monday night, we were blessed with a Ben Simmons Instagram Live video of "DJ Tobi," Tobias Harris, on the Sixers’ bus from the airport to the hotel.

“There’s a soul plane and there’s a soul bus. You’re on the soul bus, ya dig?”

DJ Tobi then proceeded to interview all the players, coaches and team personnel who entered the bus, as you can see in the videos below, which do contain profanity. 

“State your name, where are you from and where are you going,” head coach Brett Brown said Tuesday morning, laughing about last night’s bus ride. “And when there is a lull, he's got Spotify hooked up, and he's got some hip hop going on.”

“DJ Tobi,” Matisse Thybulle laughed, struggling to find the words for Harris’ performance. “He was putting on a show for everyone. … It was funny because you were seeing people out of their comfort zone.”

With the rigors of an NBA season, and through all the travel, bus rides and plane rides, the value of that type of team bonding can go underestimated.

“It's team bonding,” Simmons told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “We're a pretty close group. We like to have fun and there are a lot of different characters and personalities on the team. … It's awesome. But that's just who we are as a team, everyone just likes to have fun, everyone has good personalities and means well."

Of course, it’s easier when you’re winning, and the Sixers delivered one of their most impressive defensive performances of the year in their win over Brooklyn, led by Simmons and Thybulle.

“We could carry that good energy over,” Thybulle said of the win over the Nets. “But it definitely help to keeps things light because the travel gets tedious and boring.”

For the Brown, it’s yet another characteristic he’s seen blossom out of Harris.

“Leadership comes in all different forms … and he does it naturally,” Brown said.

“It’s what makes team sport, for me, as enjoyable as it gets, when you can win with people that you respect and trust that care. And this group does.”

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Jameer Nelson, Phil Martelli react to troubling Delonte West video

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Jameer Nelson, Phil Martelli react to troubling Delonte West video

Troubling video surfaced Monday on social media of former Saint Joseph’s great and NBA player Delonte West.

The 36-year-old appeared to get into a physical altercation and then was recorded spewing profanities with his hands behind his back. The video contains inappropriate language.

On Monday night, West’s former college teammate Jameer Nelson and head coach Phil Martelli voiced their concern and offered support.

West has opened up in the past about his battle with bipolar disorder and run-ins with the law. The most notable incident was when he was pulled over in Maryland on a three-wheeled motorcycle and subsequently arrested and charged with speeding and two counts of carrying a handgun.

When he was on Hawk Hill, West starred during his sophomore and junior seasons alongside Nelson. The duo led St. Joe’s on an incredible run in 2004. The Hawks were the No. 1 team in the country at one point and earned a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament. They lost in a thriller in the Elite 8 to two-seed Oklahoma State.

After choosing to forego his senior season, West was selected by the Boston Celtics with the 24th overall pick. He last played in the NBA with the Mavericks in 2012 and his professional career ended in 2015 after a brief stint in the G League.