How Sixers got Ben Simmons more involved in Game 3. Ben Simmons is mainly known for making his presence felt on the defensive end of the court, and that was certainly the case in Sixers Game 2. Simmons harassed Trae Young, who scored 28 points and dished out eight assists in the Sixers’ 127-111 victory against the Hawks. That bit, on the other hand, was not unexpected. Simmons will most certainly be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate throughout his career, and he may even win the title one day.

The surprising aspect was how Philadelphia used Simmons in their half-court offense for a lengthy period and created a lead that Atlanta couldn’t overcome. After Simmons had only four points in the first half, Sixers coach Doc Rivers stressed the necessity of getting him rolling, particularly in the post. It was clear why Rivers wanted to see more of Simmons in the center. When Simmons was in an attacking position and Philly was doing off-ball plays, the Sixers got many clean looks in the first half.

The Sixers called a timeout with 6:48 remaining in the second quarter, scoring 43 points on 35 possessions (1.23 per), but Simmons had played little. After the timeout, they executed a play in which Joel Embiid fed Simmons in the post, and after Simmons’ catch, Seth Curry set a back-screen for Tobias Harris. On the screen, Trae Young and Solomon Hill miscommunicated, both taking Harris. As a result, Embiid moved to create a screen for Curry; he had to stand in front of his defender as Curry circled to a wide-open 3.

The Sixers ran the identical play on their following possession, as you might anticipate. Curry advised Harris to forego the back-screen and curl off of Embiid himself this time. Clint Capela jumped out to avoid a catch-and-shoot three, and Harris came in for a runner. The Sixers reran the identical play early in the third quarter. Simmons didn’t wait for the off-ball screens this time, instead of driving by John Collins for a reverse layup. After a pair of Atlanta free throws, the Sixers went back to that play. Curry, though, set one for Embiid after taking one stride toward the back-screen for Harris.

Those weren’t the only times the Sixers used Simmons in the post. Tyrese Maxey hit a step-in jumper late in the second quarter after Simmons was doubled on the right block. Tony Snell attempted fronting Simmons on the left side of the floor on their second possession of the third quarter, so Simmons took what the defense was giving him, and Embiid gave him a lob. In the following play, Simmons positioned John Collins on the left side of the court. Bogdanovic slipped over (but did not commit to a double team), and Simmons lobbed a dart to Curry in the other corner.

Because of his height (6-11) and outstanding passing skill, he surveyed the floor and selected the ideal target. These characteristics also allow the Sixers to be more creative, such as employing Seth Curry as a screener for Joel Embiid, which leads to an easy alley-oop. Simmons also looked for his scoring chances, which was a pleasing sight given that he had only 21 points through the first two games of the series. 

The Sixers’ improved level of aggression was a crucial cause for their victory in the third quarter. Simmons had 11 points and three assists. In 34 minutes, he had 18 points, seven assists, and four rebounds.

A lot of criticism leveled at Simmons for his readiness to shoot has been exaggerated and misses his effect in other areas. He doesn’t need to start making 25 field goals every game right now. However, if the Sixers are to go to the Eastern Conference playoffs (and beyond), they will need a Simmons who does more than merely linger around the baseline at the dunker area. Putting him in the post more frequently is an excellent place to begin.

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