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Sixers give strong responses to outside Simmons criticism originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
After a day to rest and a day to practice, the Sixers will look to maintain home-court advantage and take a 2-0 series lead over the Wizards.
Here are essentials for Game 2 of their first-round series Wednesday night:
When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:15 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
‘If you guys don’t know the treasure you have by now …’
Head coach Doc Rivers on Sunday called Ben Simmons’ six-point, 15-rebound, 15-assist performance in Game 1 “special.”
We didn’t think he was off the mark, but Simmons’ lack of scoring and 0-for-6 showing at the foul line apparently attracted a lot of attention.
“If you guys don’t know the treasure you have by now, then shame on everyone, because he’s been fantastic for us,” Rivers said Tuesday. “He creates points every single night for us. When Ben was on the floor, we were really good. I’m amazed that people don’t see what he does. We’re so caught up in the amount of points he scored. I think we scored ... 125. If Ben had all 125, would we be mad that Joel (Embiid) didn’t score? Who cares who scores as long as we’re scoring? And I think Ben does a great job of doing that for us. When Ben plays, we score more points.”
When Simmons was on the floor compared to off it in the regular season, the Sixers scored three more points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass. Their effective field goal percentage was 4.2 percentage points higher.
Seth Curry and George Hill also had plenty of positive things to say about Simmons, shrugging off any outside criticism he might have received.
“He’s been great,” Curry said. “He’s an unselfish guy. He brings a lot of intensity defensively, obviously. And offensively, he pushes the pace. He’s a matchup problem and he creates a lot of shots for other people. As far as the criticism, there’s always going to be some criticism for anybody out there, no matter what. It is what is. You just go out there and keep doing the right things. We know what he brings to the table and this team. That’s the reason he’s out there for so many minutes. He brings a lot of good stuff to the floor. If he was hurting us, I’m sure he wouldn’t be out there.”
“I love Ben’s game,” Hill said. “But what I can say is he shouldn’t give two craps about what you guys say, what other people say, what the media says or what other people on the outside looking in say. He has a job here, and he does a great job doing it. There’s nights that he can score a lot of points and there’s nights where he’s doing other things to impact the game and help us win.
“Him scoring six points and having 15 assists and 15 rebounds, if anyone else does that you guys are congratulating them that they had a great game. I feel like taking pressure off of him and just keep playing basketball like he’s been doing, because he’s been doing a great job so far all year.”
Ironing out transition defense problems
The Sixers knew their transition defense was a regular-season weakness. They focused on it during their week of practice leading into the postseason. And still, it was a glaring issue Sunday.
Washington scored 14 fast-break points Sunday in the first half, including multiple unencumbered layups after Sixers makes.
“It was a list (of problems). I’m not joking,” Rivers said. “It was a list. Not matching up, running to your own men — buddy-running is what we call it. The ball’s in front but your man is next to you, so you start buddy-running with him instead of getting in front of the ball. And then communication.
“There’s two or three more, if you want me to name them. It’s funny, you work a whole week and then that happens. You’re looking around like, ‘What the heck?’ But we did fix it in the game, which is a big thing. I thought Washington definitely got our attention by the way they played. There’s no doubt about that.”
Any changes in game plan against Embiid?
The Wizards’ efforts at limiting Embiid’s production were aided by his three fouls within Game 1’s first 17 minutes. He still scored 30 points, 21 of them in the second half.
Variation and unpredictably have helped for opponents who double team Embiid, which is just about every single one nowadays. For the most part, Embiid could see Washington’s Game 1 double teams coming well before they arrived.
The Sixers also generally looked comfortable once Embiid got rid of the ball and found the open man. Having perimeter defenders who scramble desperately and well for entire possessions — the Raptors are a team that’s had such players in the past — is very useful, too.
NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes wrote here about how Washington could possibly be better on Embiid. If head coach Scott Brooks makes no dramatic adjustments, Rui Hachimura had a good summation of what the Wizards must change.
"I think it’s just if you’re going to do it, you gotta go for it,” Hachimura told reporters. “(Sunday), we were kind of just half-ass and kind of floating. We’ve just gotta be more aggressive from the beginning. We’ve just gotta communicate defensively and help the bigs. I know he’s one of the best players in the NBA, the MVP. We’ve just gotta help the bigs on one of the best players in the league."