Ben Simmons was different on Monday night. He was the player his team needs him to be. Aggressive, consistent and more focused than ever.
The Sixers faced off against the Jazz; the first-place team in the Western Conference with the best record in the NBA. Although the 76ers are also in first place in the Eastern Conference, this was certainly the team’s biggest test thus far in the season.
Joel Embiid, an MVP possibility, has had a tremendous season. He was ruled out Monday night due to back tightness, which he has dealt with before. The 76ers went on to lose the game 134-123. Simmons though, would be the big story in the game as he stepped up big time for his team.
The shooting ability of Simmons has been questioned in the past, and on Monday night he did not attempt a single three-pointer during the game. Despite this incredible stat, Simmons scored 42 points. From the start, he was concentrated and determined, scoring the first 6 points for his team. In the first quarter alone he put up 19 points.
Averaging 17.9 points in his previous six contests leading up to the game in Utah, Simmons’ teammates on the 76ers seem to spot a difference in the way he has been playing. The Philadelphia Inquirer spoke with one Sixer, Tobias Harris, about Simmons, “It’s just the evolution of his game continuing to come together game after game, but he also had that mindset where he was going to do whatever he could to help us win tonight,” Harris said.
Simmons thrives in the paint where he goes up against players that are smaller than him. His ability to handle the ball at his size gives him a great advantage and oftentimes teams struggle to find the right matchup against him.
Utah put two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert on Simmons, but Gobert was too slow and Simmons certainly took advantage of this matchup. “I loved when I saw Rudy was guarding me,” Simmons said. “I love being able to go at somebody like that. I felt like it was a little bit disrespectful putting him on me, but it is what it is.” Utah tried Joe Ingles on Simmons but he was too small to compete against his large frame.
Even though Simmons is not known for his free throw shooting he ended the game 12-of-13 from the line and 15-of-26 from the field. He almost filled the stat sheet with a triple-double, but came up short with nine rebounds and he added on 12 assists.
There is no doubt that Simmons has all the tools to be the impact player his team needs him to be. He has the size, strength and skills. His mentality will need to be on point in order for him to be the influence his team needs him to be. “Honestly, I’ve just been working on my mentality a lot the past few weeks,” Simmons said.
The way he played Monday made him unstoppable. He gave everyone watching a glimpse of the player he truly is. If the 76ers want to be a championship-contending team, they are going to need that from him game after game.