Simmons Delivers Historic Performance
How quickly can things change during a long, marathon NBA season? This quickly:
A week ago, the 76ers (29-16) returned to The Center having gone winless on a two-game trip, with losses in six of their previous eight games overall.
By the end of Monday's matinee against the Brooklyn Nets (18-24), the landscape looked a lot different.
The Sixers had won their fourth straight, 117-111, and were headed to Toronto, where on Wednesday they'll have a chance to tie the Raptors for first place in the Atlantic Division and third place in the Eastern Conference.
Monday's inspired victory was highlighted by a most inspired, all-over-the-place performance by Ben Simmons, who earlier in the afternoon was tabbed Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
The 22-year old All-Star tied a career-high with 34 points, doing so while 12 for 14 from the field and 7 for 10 from the free throw line. He also added 12 rebounds, 12 assists, and five steals, becoming the first player of record in NBA history to ever produce those minimums in a game.
Al Horford turned in a strong showing as well, posting 19 points on 9-for-15 shooting. Not only was his scoring in the fourth quarter clutch - he hit a 3-pointer and deposited a tough lay-up on back-to-back possessions to put the Sixers up 110-106 with 52 seconds to go - so too was Horford's defense, as he came up with two big blocks in the final 3:30 of play.
The Sixers trailed by as many as 12 points in Monday's first half, and by 10 in the third quarter. Continuing a theme from its current winning streak, the club once again cranked up its defense late.
The Sixers forced 10 of Brooklyn's 22 turnovers in the fourth frame, turning those miscues into 10 points. The Nets managed just 43 points in the second half, after tallying 68 prior to intermission.
Tobias Harris notched 15 points. Furkan Korkmaz chipped in with 10, and nailed a dagger three to make it 113-108 with 24.3 seconds on the clock.
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Things Changed When…
Brett Brown replaced Al Horford with Ben Simmons at the five position with just under four minutes left in Monday's third quarter.
At that point, the 76ers trailed by nine. They proceeded to go on a 20-5 run, with Simmons logging time exclusively at the five, and scoring 13 of the first 15 points of the surge.
Simmons, who played the entirety of the fourth quarter, held down the five spot for roughly seven minutes, until Horford returned with 8:00 remaining in regulation.
Related to the 22 turnovers the Sixers forced was the commanding 23-6 advantage they finished with in fastbreak points.
Ben Simmons, bonafide All-Star.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 20, 2020
No need to rehash the history here. The 76ers will be back at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday, vying for an elusive regular season victory on the Toronto Raptors' home court.