Ben Simmons called it as he saw it Monday night.

He was asked why the Sixers struggled with physicality again in their 137-106 loss Monday night to the Miami Heat, their third straight defeat on the road.

“We were soft,” he told reporters in Miami.

It’s not the first time Simmons has used that term. He also said the Sixers were “soft” last season after losses to the Nets and Hawks.

Simmons later clarified exactly what he meant.

“Don’t get bullied, fight over screens, get through screens,” he said. “You’ve gotta knock somebody, knock ‘em over. You’ve gotta hit somebody in the face and knock ‘em down, make sure they don’t score, hit ‘em in the face.”

The context here is of course significant. The Sixers allowed 127 points Saturday to the 13-38 Hawks and a season-worst 137 Monday to the Heat. Miami scored 81 second-half points, turning what had been a competitive game into a bench-clearing blowout.

The trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m. and the Sixers are neither playing as well as they’d envisioned at the beginning of the season nor where they aimed to be in the standings.

Simmons had an interesting explanation for what changed in the second half.

“I think we were too robotic,” he said. "We were just playing to play. We weren’t taking shots that were open, turning down a lot of things that we saw out there. … I don’t know what it was individually, but I just felt it was more focused on what we were running instead of just playing.”

 

According to Simmons, defensive intensity was “part of” the Sixers’ problem. It was clearly a major issue in his mind, one that he assessed bluntly.

“The physicality side of things, we’ve gotta step that up,” he said. “That comes with experience. It also just comes with personality — guys just gotta step up and be more physical.”

Mike Scott wasted no words in agreeing with Simmons.

"Played soft tonight, yep," he said.

What must the team do to improve their energy level?

“Not be soft," Scott said.

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