76ers

Sixers 119, Suns 114: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons help Sixers overcome slow start to beat Suns

Sixers 119, Suns 114: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons help Sixers overcome slow start to beat Suns

BOX SCORE

After a sluggish start, the home team did what it’s done all season long.

The Sixers kept their perfect record at the Wells Fargo Center intact with a 119-114 win over the Suns Monday.

They’re now 9-0 at home and 12-7 overall.

Here are observations from the win.

• Suns rookie Deandre Ayton got the better of Joel Embiid a couple times early, but you knew it was only a matter of time before Embiid had his way. The Sixers made a concerted effort to get the ball to Embiid on the block to start off the second quarter and he made his presence felt.

The footwork on this move which gave the Sixers their first lead was excellent …

Welcome to the NBA, rook.

Embiid just keeps putting up monster numbers, finishing with 33 points and 17 boards.

• Jimmy Butler continues to help the Sixers on both ends of the floor. With a little over 30 seconds left in the first half and his team trailing, 62-53, the Suns tried a lob to former Sixer Richaun Holmes. Butler came out of nowhere to block the shot.

On the other end, it led to a four-point play by Landry Shamet.

It was a quiet night for Butler offensively (16 points on 4 of 9), but with the way Embiid was cooking, Butler appeared content to let the big man work.

• Ben Simmons was aggressive early and often, attacking the rim throughout the game. 

His move in the second quarter on Trevor Ariza, an elite defensive wing, was one of the more impressive moves you’ll see by Simmons. He spun around Ariza and finished with a one-hand slam.

He finished an assist shy of a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. 

• An interesting side note tonight is that Markelle Fultz was not the first point guard off the bench in the second half. Brett Brown went to T.J. McConnell, who got a rousing ovation from the crowd. 

Like earlier in the season, the move was likely made for defensive purposes. We’ll find out more after the game.

• You saw another moment where Butler and Simmons seemed to read each other on the court. Late in the second quarter with Simmons bringing the ball up in transition, he noticed Butler on the block with Jamal Crawford on him. Simmons lobbed the ball to Butler and Butler was able to draw a foul.

After his home debut, Butler mentioned that he tells Simmons to throw it up to him like a wide receiver. It’s an interesting dynamic the two are starting to develop.

• Nothing about Wilson Chandler’s numbers will impress you, but he played well. The veteran forward is doing a ton of little things on both ends of the floor. His minutes restriction was bumped to 27 tonight and he made those minutes count.

He’s truly looked better in every game he’s played. At one point in the second quarter he made a really nice move and just missed a mid-range jumper. He does have some shot creating ability, something the Sixers could use. Once he’s fully unleashed, he should be a real asset for the Sixers.

• Speaking of Sixers offseason additions, Mike Muscala continues to give the team solid minutes. With Amir Johnson continuing to struggle, Muscala came off the bench as the backup five in the second half. He finished with a season-high 19 points, nine of those from the free throw line.

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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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