76ers

Sixers 108, Knicks 105: Ben Simmons helps Sixers recover after nearly blowing 24-point lead

Sixers 108, Knicks 105: Ben Simmons helps Sixers recover after nearly blowing 24-point lead

BOX SCORE 

It wasn’t nearly as easy as it should have been, but the Sixers will take it.

The Sixers almost blew a big lead Sunday afternoon in New York, then recovered to beat the Knicks, 108-105, and snap a two-game losing streak. Emmanuel Mudiay missed a potential game-tying three-point attempt on the Knicks' final possession.

Ben Simmons had a huge game, with 20 points, a career-high 22 rebounds and nine assists. He's the first Sixer to post those numbers since Charles Barkley on March 20, 1987, per Basketball-Reference.

Joel Embiid had 25 points and eight rebounds for the Sixers, who move to 28-16 with the win.

• The Sixers would be disappointed that they let the Knicks cut a lead once as large as 24 points down to one in the third quarter, and then back to two in the fourth period after it appeared the game was in hand.

With all due respect to Luke Kornet (23 points), Mario Hezonja and company, the Knicks don’t have the personnel to pose any problems for the Sixers, at least on paper. 

If Embiid wasn’t around, perhaps the Knicks would’ve handed the Sixers a third straight disappointing loss.

Unfortunately for the Knicks, Embiid, a game-time decision with right ankle soreness, did play.

He had a big impact on both ends of the court. 

Embiid blocked six shots and also took a charge on Lance Thomas in the second quarter. Embiid had a laugh after earning the call, seeming to acknowledge how unusual it is for a 7-footer known for his shot-blocking prowess to take a charge on a 6-foot-8 forward.

• Though he’s taken more lately, every Simmons jumper is still an event.

He swished a baseline fadeaway in the second quarter. 

As usual, though, dunks were a more prominent feature of Simmons’ game. 

He darted to the rim when Frank Ntilikina abandoned him to double-team Embiid and capitalized on the Knicks’ belated defensive rotation.

Simmons continues to excel in the post, especially against opponents like the Knicks who simply don’t have the defenders to physically handle him. He entered Sunday’s game shooting 48.5 percent on post-up possessions (33 of 68). For comparison, he shot 30 percent (21 for 70) on post-ups last season. 

• After two poor defensive efforts, the Sixers were better on that end of the floor in New York. That’s not to say they were good; the Knicks, who have the worst field goal percentage in the NBA, missed a number of open looks, Embiid cleaned up a few perimeter mistakes, and the Sixers still allowed the Knicks to score 32 points in the third quarter. 

But it didn’t take much to improve on their recent dismal defensive performances, and the Sixers ultimately did that vs. the Knicks.

Jonah Bolden didn’t score, but he was impressive on defense alongside Embiid in the frontcourt during his fourth-quarter stint. 

It’s worth noting that Furkan Korkmaz, who has often been exploited defensively, played just nine minutes and was scoreless, with a team-worst minus-seven. Korkmaz played four first-half minutes in Friday’s loss vs. the Hawks.

• Like Embiid, Jimmy Butler was a game-time decision. He played despite a rib contusion, posting 16 points, 10 in the second half 

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Al Horford thinks Celtics' tampering complaints are 'ridiculous'

Al Horford thinks Celtics' tampering complaints are 'ridiculous'

Did the Sixers engage in tampering with Al Horford?

Horford didn't directly address the question Monday in an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, but he did respond to ESPN's Brian Windhorst saying the the Celtics had "stomped their feet" about teams talking with Horford. 

"I just think it’s — what can I say? — it’s ridiculous,” Horford told Patrick, per NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg. "It is what it is. Danny [Ainge] — I love Danny. Danny was really good to me. I know he’s definitely frustrated that things didn’t work out with us.”

At his introductory press conference with the Sixers on July 12, Horford acknowledged that things progressed rapidly in free agency.

"When I decided to opt out, it wasn't an easy decision, but I did it and I felt like there was going to be a lot of options for me," he said. "When June 30 came around, things escalated very, very quickly. There were multiple teams, a lot of strong interest and I had to make what was the best decision for me. When Elton called and spoke with my agent, he laid down his offer, I was very surprised there was that strong interest of me being here and it made the decision very easy. It was very easy and I'm just excited to be a part of this."

It would be naive to think that none of the free agents who signed on the night of the 30th had engaged in discussions with teams before 6 p.m. It's just the way the NBA works right now, fair or not.

To be upset, as the Celtics reportedly were, does indeed seem rather "ridiculous."



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Another Ben Simmons highlight reel video shows a lot ... even some jumpers

Another Ben Simmons highlight reel video shows a lot ... even some jumpers

Since announcing that he was not playing in the FIBA World Cup, Ben Simmons has been hitting the gym to prepare for his third season in the NBA. 

When he was asked at the end of the 2018-19 season what he wanted to improve, Simmons responded in a way you’d want a team leader to: “I think for me, I just want to get better all around.

“Become a better and more efficient player. Just keep growing into a better player. There’s no one individual spot. I’m going to work on everything and continue to let my game grow.” 

It’s no secret that his biggest struggle since starting his career has been his jump shot, but a recent video on trainer Chris Johnson's Instagram page may have indicated that Simmons is stepping it up a notch.

Even though he is only 23 years old, it was clear that Simmons took on a much more prominent leadership role last season — not only in the locker room, but on the court, as well. 

Of course, no training session of his is completed without a few of his signature dunks that helped make him the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year and a 2019 All-Star.

But at the end of the day, we have seen these videos before. Now, it’s not about what we see in practice or pickup games, but rather during the season itself.

So, will this finally be the summer that Simmons develops his shot? Only time will tell. 

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