It was an ominous clothing choice for Ben Simmons.
The last time the Sixers’ point guard stepped inside TD Garden, he wore a camouflage hoodie. Then Simmons basically blended into the background during a heartbreaking Game 2 loss to the Boston Celtics.
That 108-103 loss last week marked the worst game of Simmons’ young career. He scored just a single point on 0 for 4 shooting to go along with seven assists, five rebounds and five turnovers in 31 minutes.
“I think it was mainly what I did to myself,” Simmons said after that defeat. “I think mentally I was thinking too much, overthinking the plays. I wasn’t just out there flowing and playing the way I play, which is free.”
After a chat with Sixers legend Allen Iverson and taking some time to refocus, Simmons was able to find that freedom back home at the Wells Fargo Center.
Despite some back-breaking miscues in crunch time of Game 3, Simmons looked more like himself with 16 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and two blocks. The rookie sensation followed that up in the Sixers’ Game 4 victory Monday with a 19-point, 13-rebound double-double.
While Simmons would love to bottle up that production and take it back to Boston for Wednesday’s critical Game 5 (8 p.m./TNT), he knows it all starts with the team’s approach.
“We’ve got to have the same mindset going into it,” Simmons said after a 103-92 Game 4 win. “We know it’s going to be a physical game. We know what to expect with their players. I think we’ve just got to go in, focus, lock in and handle business. We’ve played this team multiple times, so we know what we’re getting from them.”
But what will the Sixers get from Simmons?
Back when the young star was training with NBA royalty in the summers such as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, he noted that the biggest thing he took away from those guys was practice habits and experiences.
Perhaps playing with your back against the wall on the road in a win-or-go-home scenario came up during those grueling workouts. And for Sixers fans, maybe the perspective needed to get over that hump from two guys with six combined championships rubbed off a bit.
“For me, I’m not ready to go home and start my vacation. Definitely not,” Simmons said. “I texted Jo (Joel Embiid) before the game and we spoke about it. We want to be here and we believe our time is now. It’s going to take a lot, but that’s just the way our mindset is.”