Ben Simmons set out to attack.
A cutting layup just 27 seconds into the game followed by a driving layup 32 seconds later led to six points and a rebound in the first two minutes of one of his most aggressive performances.
“Physically, he was as impressive as I’ve seen him,” Brett Brown said.
Simmons posted 19 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks in the Sixers’ 114-78 win over the Pistons Friday at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations). The stats could have been higher but Simmons (23 minutes) sat the entire fourth quarter because of the Sixers’ sizeable lead.
His 9 of 13 field goal shooting consisted of six layups, two fastbreak dunks and a hook shot. The Pistons didn’t have an answer for the speed and physicality of the 6-foot-10, 250-pound point guard (see highlights).
“I think I’m at the point where I know where I can score,” Simmons said. “I know how to attack different defenders.”
Brown sees a correlation between Simmons’ aggressiveness and his growing confidence at the line. Even though Simmons attempted only one free throw (he made it), he has been improving his once-struggling shot there. Simmons, who is shooting 55.4 percent on the season, is 21 for 30 (70 percent) in his last four games in which he attempted free throws.
“I think some of it needs to be associated with his confidence going to the line,” Brown said. “I think that when people aren’t confident shooting free throws, it can’t help but drip feed into your aggression on trying to get there. I think the better he feels about his free throws, the more physical he’s going to play.”
Simmons, who shot 10 of 15 in the previous game against the Spurs, agreed with his coach.
“I think he’s right,” Simmons said. “I’m very comfortable at the free throw line. I think I’ve been shooting the ball pretty well of late. I think the better that gets, the more aggressive I am.”
The Sixers are working their way back from the December skid and reached .500 (19-19) with Friday’s win. They have a different offensive punch when Simmons plays at this level.
“I was excited,” Joel Embiid said. “When he plays like that, that’s good. That’s how we want him to play. We want him to be aggressive and keep attacking. I was happy that he did that and that just set the tone.”