At one point in the first quarter of Monday night’s NBA2K simulation on NBC Sports Philadelphia between the Sixers and Grizzlies, Ben Simmons had eight points and Memphis had none.
The Sixers started the game on a 17-0 run and Simmons was excellent, finishing with 29 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a 103-89 road win.
Here are a few observations on the virtual victory:
Simmons set the tone by breaking free for two dunks off steals on presumptive Rookie of the Year Ja Morant. He stymied Morant all game, pressuring the ball, restricting his passing lanes and contesting his mid-range attempts.
Offensively, Simmons mixed nifty, soft finishes around the rim with ferocious dunks. The Australian didn’t attempt a three but was more willing to shoot jumpers than usual, trying a few and making one from the right elbow in the first quarter.
Harris helps turn the tide
The 2K version of Harris is surprisingly good at drawing fouls. That’s not a strength for Harris in real life, but virtual Harris’ ability to draw contact in the second quarter was key after the Sixers had squandered that 17-0 lead and allowed Memphis to go in front.
Though Harris’ total of 31 points was boosted a bit by some scoring when the game was out of hand, he helped the Sixers restore control. When the Sixers have blown double-digit leads on the road this season, the rest of the game hasn’t typically transpired like Monday’s.
The Sixers paired Kyle O’Quinn and Joel Embiid for extended stretches in both halves, which was a bizarre decision.
Perhaps the rationale was to minimize the time Embiid and Al Horford played together and to experiment with a new lineup, but there are much better ways to stagger Embiid and Horford’s minutes than using O’Quinn as a power forward in a close game. Memphis went on a 20-5 run during the first Embiid-O’Quinn stretch.
With 9:21 left in the game and the Sixers up 25 points, Simmons checked out ... but not for the night. Raul Neto had held down the fort just fine — the Grizzlies trailed by 24 with about three minutes to go — but Simmons was on the floor for the end of what was essentially a blowout win.
Even if the plan was to give Simmons a shot at passing his career-high of 34 points, reinserting a player in his second game back from an injury under those circumstances was, to put it mildly, puzzling.
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