Questions about his jump shot and doubts about his performances against elite teams be damned.
Just hours after being named an All-Star, Ben Simmons had a virtuoso performance.
Joel Embiid has played like an MVP candidate, but on Thursday night, Simmons was the best player on the floor in the Sixers’ 113-104 win over the mighty Warriors at Oracle Arena (see observations).
For a team like Golden State, who had won 11 straight, they’re used to players like Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant giving their opponents fits — and Curry did, scoring a game-high 41 points. But the Warriors had no answer for Simmons, who had arguably his finest game as a pro.
"I don’t know if it’s just the awareness that he’s now an All-Star, if there was extra pressure or a burden that was kind of self-inflicted was removed. I don’t know," Brett Brown said to reporters postgame. "What I do know is he was incredible."
The numbers are certainly impressive as Simmons posted 26 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals, but it goes far beyond the box score. Simmons was efficient (10 of 13 from the field) and a menace on both ends of the floor.
While he’s recorded 20 career triple-doubles and he’s topped the 30-point plateau, those performances weren’t as impressive as what he did in Oakland on Thursday. And it didn’t really matter who was guarding him.
Former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green, former NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant and a host of others had their chances and none could contain the 22-year-old Australian.
"Ben was a monster," fellow All-Star Joel Embiid said, adding that the duo's relationship continues to grow. "We can read each other better on the court. It’s scary because we have so much potential. I feel like a lot of people haven’t seen what I can really do and obviously him, too."
You can knock Simmons for his lack of a jumper. It’s fair. It’s one facet of his game that’s missing, but when you watch the impact he had against the Warriors, you can see what makes Simmons so special. It was a glimpse into what it looks like when a 6-foot-10 player with the skills of point guard and the strength of a power forward can put it all together.
The Sixers had struggled against the NBA’s elite. A big part of that was Simmons’ struggles against teams that are disciplined and play strong transition defense. When the game shrinks to the half-court, that’s when Simmons’ problems are magnified.
For one night, he put all that to bed. But was it the best game of his career?
"Maybe. I mean, I’ve had a few good games," Simmons said with a smirk. "It’s one of those games where things were clicking. I was just being aggressive, trying to make plays for my team, defensively and offensively."
He sure looked like he was right where he belonged Thursday, competing with some of the NBA's finest. The same can be said on Feb. 17, in Charlotte.
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