Ben Simmons puts on early show, Joel Embiid comes on late as Team LeBron beats Team Giannis in NBA All-Star Game

Ben Simmons puts on early show, Joel Embiid comes on late as Team LeBron beats Team Giannis in NBA All-Star Game

The Sixers were well represented by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago Sunday.

Ultimately, Team LeBron won a thrilling — well, at least the fourth quarter was — game over Team Giannis, 157-155, on an Anthony Davis free throw. Kawhi Leonard won the newly named Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP Award scoring a game-high 30 points.

Embiid, playing without the splint on his left hand for the first time since having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left ring finger, got Team Giannis on the board with an early dunk.

Then Simmons put on a show.

Simmons had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists in the first half.

The NBA decided to break away from its traditional game format, making each quarter its own mini-game. That means each period had its own tip-off.

And would you look at who was squaring off to start the second.

(Simmons won the tip, by the way)

Not to be outdone, Embiid had a couple fancy dunks of his own as Team Giannis built a lead in the third.

Simmons also had this beauty of a put-back dunk for good measure.

He took a spill at the end but appeared no worse for wear for the rest of the game.

Another wrinkle in the new format this year is that the fourth quarter wasn’t timed, and the teams played to a “target score.” In honor of Kobe Bryant, the “target score” was 157 — 24 more points than what Team Giannis, who was in the lead, had total heading into the fourth quarter.

With Team Giannis nearing that point total, Embiid made his presence felt down the stretch, including dropping this nasty Dream Shake on LeBron James.

Both Embiid (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Simmons (17 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals) showed why they were selected for the game.

They’ll return to the court for the Sixers Thursday against the Nets at the Wells Fargo Center.

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2020 NBA All-Star Game draft: Joel Embiid selected No. 2 overall, will play against Ben Simmons

2020 NBA All-Star Game draft: Joel Embiid selected No. 2 overall, will play against Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will match up against each other in this year’s NBA All-Star Game.

Embiid was drafted to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team Thursday night, while Simmons was chosen by his mentor, LeBron James.

Embiid was the second starter taken and Antetokounmpo’s first pick, while Simmons was the fourth reserve selected. James took his Lakers teammate Anthony Davis with the first overall pick.

Antetokounmpo obviously thinks highly of Embiid, who scored 31 points in the Sixers’ Christmas win over the NBA-leading Bucks and was a big reason why the “Greek Freak” shot a season-worst 8 for 27. The two will face each other Thursday night in Milwaukee.

Unlike last year, both James and Antetokounmpo were satisfied with their rosters and didn’t feel the need to make any trades. 

The game will take place on Feb. 16 at United Center in Chicago. 



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Matisse Thybulle missing out on Rising Stars Challenge is an obvious mistake

Matisse Thybulle missing out on Rising Stars Challenge is an obvious mistake

To many Sixers fans, Matisse Thybulle is a rising star. To the NBA’s assistant coaches, he apparently doesn’t satisfy that classification. 

Thybulle was not one of the players named Friday for the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star weekend.

He has 64 steals, 17 more than any other rookie, and 34 blocks. Thybulle also leads rookies in deflections (110) and defensive loose balls recovered (31). While he’s had occasional issues with overextending and taking his aggression a step too far, he’s done well in matchups against a variety of offensive threats, from Kemba Walker to Zach LaVine to Kyrie Irving, and is proud to not be a “one-trick pony” on defense. Opponents have only shot 39.8 percent when guarded by Thybulle.

"How can he not?" Brett Brown said when asked whether Thybulle deserved to be chosen for the Rising Stars Challenge. "I mean, really, how can he not? He's played incredible basketball. He has started a handful of games. Just connect the dots to when he plays X amount of minutes to what our record is — and we're a pretty good team."

As Brown alluded to, the Sixers have been very successful when Thybulle is on the floor for longer stretches. The team is 18-3 when he plays 20 or more minutes. 

The best explanation for Thybulle not being selected — although it’s certainly not a good one — is that he only averages 4.9 points per game. 

Of course, scoring is not the only indicator of a player’s value. Thybulle has been a slightly above-average three-point shooter overall (36.6 percent) despite slumping since his return from a right knee injury. More importantly, he’s been a key player for a 31-18 team, someone Brown has said he’s determined to develop with an eye toward a role in the playoffs.

Thybulle’s exclusion is not head-scratching or perplexing, because one can understand why it happened. It’s just an unfortunate sign that his unique defensive talents — his propensity for rearview blocks, materializing out of nowhere, and stunning opposing stars — are not appreciated as much as they should be around the league, or at least by assistant coaches. 

There aren’t many players in their first or second year in the NBA who can fundamentally and immediately change a game, but Thybulle is one of them. 

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