Mike Scott

Ben Simmons sets career high — AND makes another 3 — on record-setting night for Sixers

Ben Simmons sets career high — AND makes another 3 — on record-setting night for Sixers

Updated: Sunday, 1:45 p.m.


When talking with reporters after games, one of Ben Simmons’ go-to phrases is “locked in." He certainly fit that description Saturday night, requiring only 26 minutes to grab the game by the scruff of its neck.

Simmons recorded a career-high 34 points on 12 of 14 shooting (9 of 12 from the foul line) in a 141-94 Sixers win over the 5-17 Cavs that included the Australian's second regular-season NBA three-pointer.

The Sixers are now 16-7 and 11-0 at home. A much more challenging matchup awaits them Sunday when the defending champion Raptors come to town (6 p.m./NBCSP).

Josh Richardson (right hamstring tightness) and Joel Embiid (left hip contusion) were out, but the Sixers still ran into minimal resistance in dismantling the Cavs. Richardson will miss Sunday’s game as well, which will be his sixth straight absence, though a team spokesperson said before the game that the guard participated in a full-court workout Saturday. 

Here are observations from the Sixers’ blowout win: 

It happened … again 

The reaction to Simmons’ three approached the ecstasy over his long range jumper from the right corner on Nov. 20 vs. the Knicks.

It’s clear that the sight of Simmons knocking down a three is still nowhere close to normal. 

With the Sixers well on their way to an easy victory against an inferior opponent, Simmons had nothing to lose. Of course, he hasn’t previously had the same attitude in similar situations. 

Simmons spearheads historic first half 

Before the fervor inside the Wells Fargo Center on his three, Simmons was determined to put his imprint on the game early. He scored eight of the Sixers’ first 10 points, with a righty hook shot sandwiched in between two dunks and a layup.

He had 26 first-half points on 11 of 12 shooting.

One would have to look awfully hard to find anything wrong or troubling with the first half for the Sixers as they led by more points at the break than the Cavs had scored, holding a 77-36 advantage. Simmons defended second-year guard Collin Sexton well, Kevin Love missed a few open looks, Cleveland misfired on its first 11 field goal attempts and things never got much better for them. 

The Sixers’ point guard towered over Cleveland’s undersized backcourt and at times didn’t look like he belonged in the same league. He increased his NBA lead in steals with two, and he also added two blocks.

As a team, the Sixers shot 32 for 45 (71.1 percent) in the opening half and only turned it over four times. Their 25 assists were the most by any NBA team in a half this season. It was the ideal response to Thursday’s sloppy loss in Washington, D.C, in which they turned it over 21 times. 

Before Saturday night, the Sixers had never outscored an opponent in a half by more than 36 points in franchise history. They led Cleveland by 41 at the half. The 47-point win is tied for the Sixers' third-largest ever. 

Scott starts and rediscovers his shot 

Mike Scott started for the first time this season, his 12th NBA start in 459 regular-season appearances. He came in shooting an ice-cold 20.6 percent from the floor and 18.5 percent from three-point range over the Sixers’ last eight games, but an opportunity against the lowly Cavs allowed him to rediscover his offensive game. 

Scott’s first points came on a post-up against 19-year-old rookie guard Darius Garland, a mismatch which Al Horford encouraged him to exploit with a pass to Scott down low followed by a few deliberate nods of the head.

From there, Scott was looking to score, even after picking up two fouls within the first four minutes. He finished with 21 points on 9 of 12 shooting (3 for 5 from three).

Though Scott’s toughness and authenticity are part of why the Sixers like having him on their bench, one of the most important aspects of his value is simply the ability to hit open shots.

Thybulle leaves early

Matisse Thybulle, who went scoreless in nine first-half minutes, was ruled out in the third quarter after rolling his right ankle.

The rookie is questionable for Sunday's game. He'll go through pregame warmups before determining his status vs. the Raptors, a team source told NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Taking care of business 

This loss was the Cavs’ 12th in 13 games. Players are “bristling” about John Belein’s coaching style, according to a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Joe Vardon, and the team is ready to listen to trade offers for Love, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Love abstained from one third-quarter huddle during a timeout, choosing to stand near the basket with an exasperated expression instead of join his teammates. 

In short, the Sixers will face far more unified and talented opponents this season. The Cavs did not play with much apparent effort or skill Saturday night, on the second night of a back-to-back. 

The Sixers were supposed to blow out the Cavs, and they did. It would be stunning if they did not face a greater challenge Sunday. 

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The highlight Mike Scott remembers to stay positive

The highlight Mike Scott remembers to stay positive

It’s hard to imagine Mike Scott being negative.

Since he arrived in a trade from the Clippers last season, Scott has become a fan favorite and steady, veteran contributor. He immersed himself even more into Philadelphia over the summer by crashing weddings and taking part in Nerf gun wars.

But even the most jovial and fun people can fall victim to negative thoughts. In the past, he’s let it affect his play on the court.

“You don’t want anything negative going through your mind because you’re not going to perform well,” Scott said. “I’ve done it before. I’ve had games or something off the court has happened and I was feeling bad or I just wasn’t myself. It factors in your play a lot."

As he’s gotten older, Scott has gotten better at staying positive.

One of his secrets? Watching old highlights of himself playing well. 

His biggest moment as a Sixers occurred when he hit a game-winning three in Game 4 of the team’s first-round playoff matchup against the Nets. That shot gave the Sixers a commanding 3-1 series lead.

“I always go back to that Game 4 Brooklyn shot,” Scott said. “That shot felt good. I felt like I wasn’t really contributing like I wanted to, I didn’t have the game that I wanted to, but that shot did feel good and I always go back to that shot. It makes me feel like I can play in this league, I belong in this league, I can hit big shots.”

Scott talked about the power of positivity and having teammates you can depend on in an interview, which you can watch above.

NBC Sports Regional Networks has launched a multi-platform campaign on mental health and men's health, HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, for the month of November. You can find more information about the initiative here.

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Sixers told us exactly what they would be, and they weren’t kidding

Sixers told us exactly what they would be, and they weren’t kidding

Teams sometimes meander upon their identity after a long season, stumble upon it around New Year’s or never truly find it. The 2019-20 Sixers have no such problem. 

Head coach Brett Brown, whenever there’s been an opening, has reminded reporters of the Sixers’ desire to embody the spirit of Philadelphia. Those words aren’t empty. 

If you went into our practice facility, it’s our creed — it’s Philly hard, Philly edge and there’s an authenticity — it’s real,” he said Wednesday night after a 117-95 Sixers win over the Timberwolves that featured a chaotic fight between Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns. “And every time we can, we like to point to an example. Like yep, this is Philly hard. That thing had an edge. This is real. There’s a spirit amongst our team that’s authentic.

After the fight, and the post-ejection shadowboxing, and the crowd’s rapturous “MVP” chants as Embiid headed back to the locker room, Mike Scott knew what he was supposed to say about the incident. He opted against an insincere reaction.

“It was definitely entertaining,” he said. “Let’s get all the bad s--- out. You don’t want to condone it, kids are watching. We’ll see what the league does. But that was great. Probably … nah, f--- that. That was great. I enjoyed that. He’s a superstar. With plays like that, he just has that Philly toughness in him.”

Embiid borrowed one of Scott’s favorite phrases when asked what sort of trash talk had led to the fight.

“Well, first of all, I ain't not b----,” he said. “So no, there was not a lot of talking. It kind of happened out of nowhere. I just did what I had to do and I was just trying to control myself. It happens.”

Unlike Embiid, who also bragged about “owning that real estate" in the mind of Towns, the Timberwolves’ center wasn’t boastful.

“It was a competitive game, that’s all it was,” he said. “There are a lot of great things we can learn and really go out there and try to beat Washington.”

Towns deflected questions about what caused the fight, whether he regretted it and if he’d indeed taken a swing at Embiid in a similar manner. He used the word “competitive” six times in his postgame scrum. 

Embiid and the Sixers, on the other hand, were sticking their chests out.

... I was built for this city and they were built for me," Embiid said. "My reaction, the reaction and the love they have for me —I can't thank them enough. ... And I heard the MVP chants from the locker room. But that's what the city of Philadelphia is about. You got to come here, you got to fight. You got to play hard. Got to be gritty. You got to be Broad Street bully. So that's what it's about. So we're going to keep on fighting and trying to accomplish the goal we have set for us.

The dissonant voice was Al Horford. After a 12-point, 16-rebound, four-assist night — not that many will recall the stats from this game at the end of the year — the even-keeled 33-year-old was displeased with the incident between Embiid and Towns. He’d kept a good distance from the scrum of bodies on the floor and did not like what he’d witnessed. 

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. "I couldn’t believe it. It’s just one of those things. Those two players are two of our great young players in the league. I’ve known Karl for years, I know his family. He’s a good kid. Joel’s a good kid, as well. It’s just one of those things that you don’t want to see in a game. Our game is a great game. That happened, and it was unfortunate. I do hope that they both learn from this. There’s just no place for that in our game.”

The Sixers likely won’t tune out Horford if he expresses that opinion behind closed doors. His new teammates have publicly praised his work ethic, professionalism and intelligence. They seem to genuinely respect his viewpoint. But, while Scott might be the most extreme, unfiltered version of the team's identity, his attitude appears to be a natural one for the Sixers, one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the NBA.

“Smash mouth offense, bully ball defense,” Brown had promised at his annual luncheon with the media before the season. 

Well, Ben Simmons had Towns in a headlock at the bottom of that pile of bodies Wednesday night, with the Sixers up 20 and their best player in the middle of a mess. It seems safe to say he’s bought in. (For what it’s worth, referee Mark Ayotte told The Associated Press pool reporter that the officiating crew “deemed [Simmons] a peacemaker.” We’ll see whether the league agrees with that assessment upon further review.)

“You’ve gotta have that mentality,” Scott said. “Like I said, we don’t want to come out here and fight every night, s--- like that. But sometimes you’ve gotta do that. I have to watch the whole replay and see what happened. But I feel like Jo did what he had to do. S---, I would have done the same thing.”

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