Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons is better when he can get out and run.
While the 22-year-old can certainly play in the half-court offense, he shot better than 56 percent from the field this season, he’s undoubtedly better in the transition offense — and the 76ers are better when that happens, too. They ranked ninth in the league this season in transition offense, averaging 21.4 points per game.
According to Brooklyn Nets veteran Jared Dudley, though, that’s the only part of Simmons’ game that’s any good.
“I think Ben Simmons is a great player in transition. Once you slow him up in the half court I think he’s average,” Dudley told Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer on Wednesday. “He’s a player that when he picks up speed he’s a load so you have to [send] guys with him. It’s taking away his easy baskets.”
Now, Dudley isn’t completely wrong with his view on Simmons’ game, and the first two games of their opening-round playoff series are perfect examples.
Dudley shut down Simmons in Game 1 of the series, allowing the All-Star only two points on 22 possessions, according to NBC’s Tom Haberstroh. Simmons finished with just nine points in the 111-102 loss, shooting 4 of 9 from the field. As a team, Philadelphia had just four fast-break points.
Simmons, though, was a totally different player in Game 2 on Monday night. He finished with a triple-double with 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds while shooting a significantly better 8 of 12 from the field in Philadelphia’s dominant 145-123 victory to even the series. He was much more aggressive than he was in Game 1, and it showed — not only improving his game but the team’s as a whole.
“He was really, really aggressive, getting everybody involved,” 76ers guard Jimmy Butler said after the win. “That’s how we want him to play every single night. I love him when he’s playing like that.”
Yet Dudley was inactive for Game 2 while dealing with a right calf injury. Sure, Simmons’ struggles in Game 1 could simply be attributed to a bad game, but Dudley played a significant part in limiting him offensively. With Dudley on the bench and out of the way on Monday, Simmons was free to take over.
Dudley has been cleared to play in Game 3 of the series on Thursday night at Barclays Center, and will undoubtedly attempt to take away Simmons’ “easy baskets” again. If he does, the Nets will likely have a legitimate chance to take a 2-1 lead in the opening-round playoff series.
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