So much for being thrown into the playoff fire as a rookie.
Ben Simmons didn’t just acclimate himself to the postseason atmosphere, he dominated with one of his typical all-around performances to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 130-103 blowout victory over the Miami Heat in his playoff debut.
The 21-year-old flirted with a triple-double by posting 17 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds as the Sixers extended their winning streak to 17 games, further proving that his spectacular rookie season is no fluke.
And Simmons did it all without Joel Embiid around to help share the responsibility as the centre continues to recover from a facial fracture.
“For me, just being more aggressive,” Simmons said on his approach without Embiid. “Attacking the rim. Knocking down free throws, when I get the opportunity. Moving the ball. Playing the way I play. I don’t need to take all the shots. I have guys who can hit shots. As long as I’m getting them open and good shots, we’re fine.”
Getting his teammates open shots is how Simmons thrived against Miami’s defence in Game 1.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sagged his players off the 6-foot-10 point guard, daring him to shoot, and while Simmons struggled from the field in the first half – connecting on just 3-of-9 attempts – he played more of a playmaking role after the intermission by dishing nine assists in shooter-heavy lineups.
There will be times when the Sixers won’t shoot as well and Simmons will be needed to score more, but in his first playoff test, he was impressive.
“I expected him to rise to the moment, and I’ll expect him to do that in Game 2,” J.J. Redick said. “But he was awesome tonight. I love when he shows emotion, too. It’s great to see. He’s just got a quiet cockiness about his game that I love.”
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