Ben Simmons leaves with injury in Sixers' nightmarish loss to Bucks

Ben Simmons leaves with injury in Sixers' nightmarish loss to Bucks

The Sixers’ second game after the All-Star break could have gone worse, but not by much.

They were blown out Saturday night in Milwaukee by the NBA-best Bucks, 119-98, and Ben Simmons left the game in the first quarter because of injury.

The loss drops the Sixers to 35-22, 9-20 on the road. Up next are the Hawks on Monday night (7 p.m./NBCSP).

Simmons irritates injury 

Simmons, who’d missed the Sixers’ game Thursday vs. the Nets with lower back soreness, exited after playing 4:44 and irritating the injury. 

He paused and bent down after drawing a foul on Brook Lopez, then made 1 of 2 free throws. Matisse Thybulle then took a foul on Khris Middleton to ensure Simmons could check out and go back to the locker room.

Heading into Saturday’s contest, Simmons had played 213 of a possible 220 regular-season games over the past three seasons. The 23-year-old All-Star leads the NBA in steals and is quite obviously an integral piece for the Sixers.

Other injury scares 

Tobias Harris grabbed at his right knee and limped back up the floor following a missed layup attempt in the second quarter.

Though Harris stayed in the game, it was an alarming sight, especially in the context of Simmons’ injury and Harris’ immediate reaction without any contact. He didn’t seem to be moving as well as usual after the incident.

At the end of the half, Joel Embiid missed a tip-in off an Alec Burks layup, then appeared to grimace and hold his lower back. He didn’t miss any action. 

The Sixers entered the game with no players on the injury report, but, by the end of the first half, their overall team health was a matter of concern. 

The backup plan 

Shake Milton (17 points on 5 of 9 shooting) slid into the point guard spot when Simmons exited, sharing a backcourt with Josh Richardson early in the second quarter. The Sixers then inserted Burks in place of starter Glenn Robinson III. That lineup — with Harris and Embiid in the frontcourt — was the same one that had won the Sixers Thursday’s game in overtime. 

Again, Simmons’ injury had an impact on the team’s rotations, so it wouldn’t make sense to come to any grand conclusions. That said, the exclusion of Raul Neto until the game was out of hand is notable. Neto had started in Simmons' place Thursday. 

The inclination to try the Sixers’ three most capable pick-and-roll guards in the same lineup also suggests a desire to maximize that skill set, which is not at all surprising.

Throughout the entire season, the Sixers have been looking for players who can handle the ball, create their own shots and run a pick-and-roll. They’re hoping that Burks, who impressed with 19 points Thursday, can help in an area where they’ve been consistently lacking. Burks did not play well Saturday, shooting 3 of 13. On one third-quarter sequence, he quickly undid the good fortune of a banked-in three by missing a free throw and fouling Middleton on the ensuing possession. 

Mike Scott, a DNP vs. Brooklyn, appeared in the second half with the Sixers down double digits. 

Shooting woes 

Neither Embiid nor the Sixers started the game well. Embiid was scoreless in the first quarter and the Sixers shot 8 of 25 as a team from the field (1 of 9 from three-point range).

He was aggressive in the second quarter, scoring 12 points, getting to the foul line seven times and temporarily giving the Sixers a form of reliable half-court offense. The Sixers also did well to defend the Bucks without fouling in the first half, holding a big free throw attempt advantage (14-2) and staying close despite their continued outside shooting struggles.

That quarter was the only real positive of the night for Embiid or the Sixers. Embiid picked up his third and fourth fouls early in the third quarter, and the Sixers’ deficit grew with him on the bench. As a comeback win without Simmons looked more and more unlikely, the defensive effort deteriorated. 

Embiid hit 5 of 18 field goals and had 11 rebounds, four assists and four turnovers. He’s now made 11 of his last 44 shots in Milwaukee. 

The Sixers shot a season-worst 35 percent from the field. Al Horford was just 1 for 7. 

The reigning MVP dominates 

Embiid and Horford split defensive duties on Giannis Antetokounmpo. The reigning MVP again made it very clear that his 8-of-27 Christmas shooting effort against the Sixers was an anomaly with 31 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists in 29 minutes. 

Thursday night, Embiid had said, “The All-Star Game is just proving that I’m here, I belong, and being the best player in the world.”

Antetokounmpo played like the best player in the world Saturday. 

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Jim Lynam has tales on when Moses Malone stunned him, Julius Erving’s class, relationship with Maurice Cheeks

AP Images/David Zalubowski

Jim Lynam has tales on when Moses Malone stunned him, Julius Erving’s class, relationship with Maurice Cheeks

If you’d like in-depth, entertaining insight into some of the great players and moments in Philadelphia basketball history, Jim Lynam is the right person to talk to.

Now an analyst with NBC Sports Philadelphia, Lynam played and coached at St. Joe’s, served as a head coach, assistant coach and general manager throughout the years with the Sixers, and has developed close relationships with a slew of Hall of Famers. He joined Paul Hudrick and Danny Pommells on the latest Sixers Talk podcast and had plenty of stories to tell about Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Maurice Cheeks and Julius Erving.

Lynam's first experience with the late Malone was in 1985, when he joined the Sixers as an assistant coach after a stint with the Clippers. 

Moses, in my mind, was going through the motions,” Lynam said on the podcast. "And I personally was concerned, maybe after three or four days. … Is Moses all right? Is he hurt? Does he always start like this? They were almost, to a man, dismissive of my thoughts, from [head coach] Matty [Guokas] right up to Harold Katz, the owner. So, this went on for the entire preseason. Moses was beyond desperate. And I’m now really concerned. This guy was key to our team if we’re going to be legit. 

“Well, we open the season in New York against rookie Patrick Ewing, and all the fanfare. Moses gave Patrick Ewing 38 [points] and 24 [rebounds]. It was the first sweat that he broke. And he put Patrick Ewing in the basket probably about six times. So it was a real eye-opener for me.

The official box score says Malone had 35 points and 13 rebounds, but it must have felt like 38 and 24 to a coach getting his first exposure to Malone's Hall of Fame talent. 

“The public persona of Moses was really quite different than who the real guy was,” Lynam said. “He was really one of the best. He was genuine, no nonsense, come to do his work every day. A person of few words, yes, but when he spoke, all heads turned.”

Lynam has a vivid memory from that same year of an incident that showed him Erving’s character. He recalled a mob of fans swarming around Erving after a preseason game, eager for his autograph.

“As we’re walking down this corridor with people all over the place, a fan barges out with a pad and a pen, and obviously somewhat inebriated,” he said. “The first cop takes exception. … Doc’s trying to take care of the fan. ‘Sure, sure I’ll sign.’ And there’s this cop literally with a stick. To see Doc defuse that — he takes cares of the fan. ‘Fine, my man, ‘ he says, ‘but we’ve gotta go.’

"The fan’s ecstatic because he got the autograph. [Erving] turns to the cop, and I could see in the cop’s eyes, he’s irate. Puts his arm out to the cop and he kind of gives him a side embrace, and he says, ‘Thanks, my man, I appreciated that.’ And I went, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was like watching somebody walk on water. He defused what could’ve been a split skull and a near-riot in a matter of seconds, that’s how good he was.” 

Erving was the first of his kind, according to Lynam.

“Playing above the rim, playing in the stratosphere — he brought the game up there,” he said. “He was the first one, because he did it with a combination of spectacular and graceful.”

From 2001-2005, Lynam coached under Cheeks, who hired him to be an assistant on his staff with the Trail Blazers. One quality Lynam admired in Cheeks as a player was “the game was never too big for him.”

“That’s a huge compliment that I would pay a player because, for a lot of good players, the game can get too big,” he said. “Charles Barkley used to tell me, ‘Coach, you’ve gotta be careful who you set that last shot up for.’ Obviously he said it one night when I didn’t set it up for him. But Charles is right. Not everyone relishes having to take, or looks forward to taking, the shot that’s going to decide the game one way or the other. In that light, Cheeks was as good as there was."

You can listen to the full podcast below, which also includes a story from August of 1989 that involves Lynam frantically searching through the city of Philadelphia, looking to tell Cheeks he’d been traded.

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

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Sixers smother Wizards in rare road win in NBA2K simulation

Sixers smother Wizards in rare road win in NBA2K simulation

If only the real Sixers were as good on the road as the NBA2K version.

The Sixers smothered the Wizards in a 64-50 win during an NBA 2K20 simulation Friday night.

A 17-0 run to start the fourth quarter pushed the Sixers’ lead from five to 22 and essentially sealed the victory.

Perhaps Washington’s mascot — who basically looks like Gonzo from the Muppets with a gut and a wizard hat on — rollerblading on the court at halftime affected the hardwood.

Here are observations from the win:

Bully ball defense

Bradley Beal got off to a scorching start, scoring all 11 of the Wizards’ first-quarter points. After that, it was tough sledding for Beal and the Wizards.

The star guard had just one point in the second and two in the third. By the time Beal hit a three with under four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Sixers had already gone on a 17-0 run and put the game away.

Embiid quiet again

For some reason, the Sixers don’t get the ball to their best player in this video game. It makes zero sense. Embiid did appear to be playing banged up. He kept flexing his shoulder and had a little medical symbol pop up next to him. Embiid scored one basket with 16.9 seconds left in the first half. That’s it. He did challenge a ton of shots at the rim.

On the other hand, Ian Mahinmi was the Wizards’ best player and played really well … which is something. Mahinmi, who has one of the worst contracts in the NBA, would not normally be the type of big who takes it to Embiid, but in this simulation, it was Mahinmi’s night.

Sixers would take this Harris and Horford in real life

Yet again, Horford was strong in this simulation. He was great on both ends, punishing rookie Rui Hachimura in the post offensively and defensively. Though the mighty Mahinmi did take it to Horford on a couple possessions. 

Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson were also big in this one. Harris, who was the 2K Player of the Game, posted a double-double while Richardson put the clamps down on Beal. Both players played a big part in the fourth-quarter run.

A night to forget for Neto

In a surprise move, virtual Brett Brown decided to go with seldom-used Raul Neto as his backup point guard. It did not go well. Neto missed his first four shots, which all seemed of the forced variety. Brown had seen enough and went to Richardson as his backup one.

Brown gave Neto a second chance in the second half and the veteran point guard rewarded him. Neto came up with a steal on former Sixer Ish Smith and finished on the other end in the third.

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