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Sixers 113, Warriors 104: All-Star Ben Simmons leads impressive win over mighty Warriors

Sixers 113, Warriors 104: All-Star Ben Simmons leads impressive win over mighty Warriors

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Here they come, everybody …

It didn’t look pretty early, but the Sixers stormed back from a seven-point halftime deficit with a 42-point third quarter to beat the mighty Warriors, 113-104, Thursday night at Oracle Arena.

The Sixers (34-18) looked like they were walking into a buzz saw, but instead, they halted Golden State’s 11-game win streak. It didn’t look promising against the world champs early with a red-hot Stephen Curry and 13 first-half turnovers for the Sixers, but they fought back. They held the Warriors to just 47 percent from the field and 29 percent from three.

Here are observations from the Sixers’ biggest win of the season:

• Ben Simmons was named an All-Star for the first time in his young career and he certainly looked the part on Thursday. He was aggressive early and took advantage of any of the smaller defenders Golden State threw at him.

Generally when Simmons is attacking the rim and looking for his shot early — something he has done more recently — good things happen.

He finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. He was the Sixers’ best player Thursday night. You could argue it was the best game of Simmons' career. Brilliant performance.

• Joel Embiid relishes matchups against elite big men like DeMarcus Cousins. In this one, he forced the action early and committed seven first-half turnovers. The Warriors as a team did a nice job collapsing the paint and not allowing Embiid any easy post-ups.

The shooting numbers (8 of 24, 0 of 5 from three) don’t look pretty, but Embiid definitely made his presence felt and took a lot of the focus off his teammates. He also recorded his league-leading 42nd double-double with 26 points and 20 rebounds.

• Curry and Kevin Durant are practically unguardable. Brett Brown tried to throw different looks at both players.

Curry hit six threes and had 23 points in the first half on his way to a game-high 41 points. When he's on like that, there's not much you can do. Durant had 25 points but went just 1 of 8 from three. 

The Sixers did catch a break with Klay Thompson out of the lineup with an illness. That doesn't take anything away from the win.

• Jimmy Butler was pretty much invisible offensively in the first half. He went 0 for 5 from three and didn’t impact the game on that end at all, finishing with just seven points on 3 of 12. These are the types of games and moments the Sixers acquired Butler for, so it’s a little disappointing to have such a performance. But Butler is a four-time All-Star and he'll bounce back.

• The bench has been an obvious weakness for the Sixers all season, but two rookies have given them a huge boost recently and shined on Thursday.

Jonah Bolden’s presence was missed in the team’s win over the Lakers. Sure, the Sixers won the game rather easily, but whenever the Lakers made a run, it was with Embiid on the bench. Bolden was actually a plus-2 in the first half and a plus-10 overall vs. Golden State.

There was one impressive sequence in the first half when Cousins went right at him in the post. Bolden stood his ground, moved his feet well and eventually forced a jump ball as Cousins rose up for a shot around the rim. A similar play happened in the second half with Bolden getting the block. Cousins complained for a foul — shocking — but it just looked like a great defensive play by Bolden.

It’s not surprising to see Landry Shamet hit threes. He has the best three-point percentage of any rookie in the league that qualifies for the stat. What’s been encouraging about Shamet recently is his defense. He still has physical limitations on that end of the floor, but he continues to improve every game.

The first-year players combined for 18 points on 6 of 9 shooting.

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It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

Updated: Tuesday, 5:09 p.m.

We now have a diagnosis on Ben Simmons' injury. Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, a team source confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia (see story). Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news.

Speaking before the Sixers' win Monday night over the Hawks, head coach Brett Brown was unsure how long the injury would sideline Simmons. The 23-year-old sustained the injury at practice Wednesday going up for a rebound, according to Brown, and irritated it in the first quarter of Saturday night’s game against the Bucks.

“I don’t know,” Brown said. “And it really is like how long is a piece of string — who knows? Who knows? … Whatever the time equals on days, games, period of time, we can talk more honestly as this thing shakes out.”

However, it sounded as if Brown was preparing for his two-time All-Star point guard to be out for a while. He framed the situation as one the Sixers can cope with if other players take advantage of the chance to play expanded roles.

There’s 25 games left. … It’s an eternity,” he said. “Just keep going back to the end game. What’s the bottom line? I’ll say it again — if you get their health and their spirit, it’s got a chance to equal form. … And it’s all about landing the plane. And so with 25 games left, we’ve taken a hit with Ben. 

"I do see it this way. I’m not spinning it. It’s an opportunity for us to learn and something will emerge. And we need something to emerge. It’s not like we were all saying, ‘Oh, here it is, it’s anointed.’ It wasn’t that. So, I think we’re going to learn something and find something. If this was six games out, I wouldn’t be telling you this story. When it’s 25 games out, it is, with all my heart, what I think. That’s what I said to the team, that’s what I really think and that’s what I’m going to try to pull off.

Who specifically will take over ball handling duties? Brown said it “will be done by committee” for the time being, and he named a few players who he expects to be in that mix. Monday night, the team started Shake Milton, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Joel Embiid. 

“The candidates could be Raul Neto or [Furkan Korkmaz] or Alec Burks or J-Rich, Shake," he said. "So, you have capable people that aren’t traditional point guards but have the ability to get the ball up the floor. Then at that point, you’re probably going to have to be in something that has motion and continuity instead of just giving Chris Paul the ball and saying, ‘Go to work’ out of a pick-and-roll, as an example.”

Regardless of Brown’s attitude, the tangible impact of not having Simmons will clearly be significant. He leads the league in steals, has assisted on the most three-pointers and is a highly athletic, versatile and talented player.

The loss of all those attributes will no doubt be difficult to overcome.

“When there is a vacuum, as there is right now with Ben, something will happen,” Brown said. “Somebody will step up. I’m trying to see the world through those eyes, and I really do — it’s not even creative coach speak. I see it as an opportunity, and I think I need to see it that way.”

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Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons suffered nerve impingement in lower back

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons suffered nerve impingement in lower back

Ben Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back and will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks, a team source confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Simmons will undergo daily treatment. 

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports “there's little expectation that [Simmons would] be ready to return to lineup that soon,” and says “doctors are hopeful treatment can drive improvement, but Sixers are preparing to play without him." 

According to head coach Brett Brown, Simmons was first injured at the team’s practice last Wednesday. The 23-year-old All-Star missed the team’s first game after the All-Star break, a win Thursday over the Nets. 

“It was a play where he went up for a rebound and I looked over and he left the court, and went and got treatment,” Brown said Thursday. “And it has played out as it has played out. We don’t believe it’s anything too significant.”

Simmons sat out the Sixers’ game vs. the Nets on Thursday and played Saturday in Milwaukee. He appeared to be in discomfort after drawing a foul in the first quarter on the Bucks’ Brook Lopez. The 23-year-old stayed in the game to make 1 of 2 free throws, then exited when Matisse Thybulle committed a foul to create a stoppage of play and ensure Simmons could return to the locker room.

Ahead of the game against the Bucks, Simmons had averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds and a league-best 2.2 steals. He’d played 36.3 minutes per game, most on the Sixers and third-highest in the NBA ahead of Saturday’s games. 

Brown talked before the Sixers’ win Monday over the Hawks as if he was prepared for a long-term absence. He said the team would split up ball handling responsibilities by committee, with Shake Milton, Josh Richardson and Alec Burks among the possible candidates. Milton started on Monday. 

The 36-22 Sixers are fifth in the Eastern Conference and play the Cavaliers on Wednesday night in Cleveland. 

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