Game Recap | Simmons Fuels Big Third Quarter, Second Straight Victory
The 76ers (4-3) were in need of a kick, and Ben Simmons stepped up to provide one.
Then things changed for the better, and quickly.
After his team went into Monday’s halftime tied with the spunky, retooling Atlanta Hawks (2-4), the reigning Rookie of the Year burst out of the gates in the third quarter, having a say in the first 22 points the Sixers scored.
The Simmons-inspired surge set the tone for the rest of the evening, as the Sixers ended up running away with a 113-92 victory.
The win was the club’s second in a row, and fourth in as many tries at The Center. With Monday’s outcome, the Sixers also reestablished a winning record, and registered their largest margin of victory on the young season.
“I think we just needed a spark, and I was able to provide that for the team,” said Simmons. "I told the guys to keep running with me, and I’ll find them.”
He also did plenty scoring damage of his own.
Simmons was dominant in a third quarter that saw the Sixers outpace Atlanta 31-13. He posted 15 of his 21 points, six of his 12 rebounds, and three of his nine assists in the frame.
The Aussie’s double-double was his fifth of the year, and the sixth time in his career he registered 20 points and 10 rebounds in the same game.
“He has a second gear that a lot of people in this league don’t have,” said Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, an assistant under Brett Brown the past five seasons. “
Markelle Fultz enjoyed a positive showing, too. He proved to be a bouncy, productive back-up to Simmons in Monday’s second half, en route to scoring 16 points, a new career high.
The Sixers’ bench also came up big. Mike Muscala and JJ Redick each netted 14 points, while Landry Shamet added 13.
That the Sixers found themselves involved Monday in a tussle with Atlanta through 24 minutes was no surprise. Given Pierce’s pedigree as a defensive-minded, competitive coach, it was almost to be expected.
The Hawks jumped out to a 25-20 edge through one quarter, and by the halftime break, had limited the Sixers to 33.3 percent shooting and forced 10 turnovers.
Simmons, however, had other plans.
“My team needed me tonight to bring that,” he said of his attitude in the second half.
The Sixers were certainly better off for it.
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Third Quarter Switch
The turnaround in Monday’s third quarter was dramatic, to say the least.
With Ben Simmons leading the charge, the Sixers simply shut Atlanta down. They held the Hawks to 25.0 percent shooting, forced six turnovers, and established a plus-9 rebounding margin.
Here’s how Brett Brown summed up the turning point:
“We felt like we were better in transition defense and rebounding the ball. In our eyes, that was the bottom line. You can maybe kickstart some things with a score, but mostly get stops.”
Taking into account the entirety of Monday’s second half, Brown was also encouraged that, reminiscent of last season, the Sixers got back to their efficient passing ways. All but three of their baskets between the third and fourth quarters came on assists.
“There are sparks,” Simmons said of the progress the Sixers have been making. “We had a few sparks tonight that kind of looked like the team from last year.”
Jo Reads the Gym
From the get-go, Atlanta applied aggressive double-team pressure on Joel Embiid, and didn’t let up.
The All-Star finished with 10 points (3-9 fg) and six rebounds, totals notably below his season averages of 29.2 points and 12.7 boards.
The number, though, that stood out most to Brett Brown? Embiid’s six assists.
The head coach was thrilled that the 7-footer read the gym in ways that made the Hawks pay.
"He knew they were going to come at him,” Brown said of Atlanta’s double-team strategy. “I thought he did a hell of a job passing, I thought he was unselfish, I thought he was really good tonight."
The big number from the big man that mattered most to Brett Brown?
His 6 dimes.
(one on a volleyball punch )
"He knew they were going to come at him. I thought he did a hell of a job passing, I thought he was unselfish, I thought he was really good tonight." pic.twitter.com/lzfkoClmr4
— Brian Seltzer (@brianseltzer) October 30, 2018
In the second half of Monday’s game, the Sixers received great production from their primary ball handlers. Ben Simmons did what he did, while Markelle Fultz launched an attack of his own.
Fultz manufactured 10 of his personal-best 16 points in the second stanza. He produced six assists against zero turnovers as well.
Simmons dug it.
“I love seeing him play and just watching,” Simmons said. “He plays the game the right way, he sees things that guys don’t see, and always tries to make the right play.”
‘Gram of the Game:
Apropo sneaker messaging from Sixers’ Steel City native T.J. McConnell.
A noteworthy early-season Atlantic Division match-up awaits the Sixers Tuesday, when they travel across the border to Toronto. The Raptors entered a match-up of unbeatens Tuesday against Milwaukee with a 6-0 record.