Simmons’ Scoring and More Takeaways From Back-to-Back Wins
Back to nearly full strength, the Sixers have put together an impressive three-game winning streak.
Their most recent wins, coming in a back-to-back against the Celtics and the Pistons, were highlighted by Ben Simmons’ scoring, Joel Embiid’s continued dominance, Seth Curry's return, and the team taking care of business.
Here are a few takeaways from the Sixers’ wins at home against Boston and on the road in Detroit.
Simmons not taking outside shots, but it doesn’t matter
You wouldn’t have known things were going so well for the Sixers if you heard people discuss Simmons recently. Going into Friday’s game, his scoring was down and there was a perceived lack of aggressiveness.
After a strong fourth quarter against the Celtics (11 of his 15 points), Simmons carried it over against the Pistons with his first 20-point performance of the young season. While the scoring is welcomed, it’s Simmons’ overall game over the past three contests that stands out.
Simmons continues to play at a Defensive Player of the Year level. He contained Jaylen Brown late Friday after Doc Rivers asked Simmons – admittedly a little late – to defend the high-scoring wing. On Saturday, he shut Jerami Grant down from the opening tip, holding the former Sixer – who’s averaging 24.3 points a game – to 11 points on just 3 of 19.
While some will still be worried about his lack of outside shooting, the more important offensive developments have been Simmons taking care of the basketball and getting to the line.
After averaging over six turnovers a game in his previous three, Simmons has averaged just 2.3 over his last three. The game in Memphis was one of his worst in that regard. Since halftime of that loss, there may have been an epiphany. How many times have we watched Simmons over the years get to the foul line area, pick up his dribble with nowhere to go, and throw a blind pass behind him? The answer is a lot. But since halftime of that loss against the Grizzlies, I’m not sure he’s done it once. Progress.
Simmons also got to the line 12 times Saturday. More importantly, he hit 10 of them. Over his last five games, Simmons has shot 73.5 percent from the line on 6.8 attempts a night. He’s had double-digit attempts in two of the last three games.
“I know I’m capable of getting to the rim and drawing fouls,” Simmons said, “so if I’m able to get to the line and get 10 free throws up, I got to be knocking them down. Late game, guys want to foul me, they can go ahead and foul me. I have the confidence to step up and knock them down, especially late game.”
Embiid dominates … again
Ho hum, Embiid put up his third straight 30-point, 10-rebound game. The ease in which Embiid has been dominating is borderline scary.
Over his last eight games, Embiid is averaging 31.1 points and 10.9 rebounds a game – and that’s with a blowout win against the Heat where he scored just nine points mixed in. During that stretch, he’s shooting 57.4/45.8/85.4 and taking 12 free throws a game.
On the season, Embiid’s 27.7 points per game are good for sixth in the NBA. He has the highest field-goal percentage of anyone in the top 10. Embiid leads the league in free-throw attempts a game. On top of that, he’s still protecting the rim and playing defense at a high level.
It’s very early, but Embiid has arguably been the best-two way player in the NBA on the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference. There’s a long way to go, but this is the way MVP seasons generally start.
Seth Curry is ridiculous
Curry joined the Sixers as the active NBA leader in three-point percentage. He’s done nothing but improve upon that during his time with the Sixers. After missing seven games with a positive COVID-19 test, Curry appeared as though he didn’t miss a beat.
Curry averaged 14.5 points and shot over 57 percent from the field in the two games since his return. While he went 3 of 5 from three against Boston Friday, Curry had a rare off night from beyond the arc Saturday, going 0 of 3. What was impressive is that Curry still managed to shoot 6 of 11 overall and finish with 14 points. Curry has shown he’s more than just a shooter. His ability to put the ball on the floor has helped the Sixers’ offense immensely.
Curry’s shooting numbers so far this season are insane. His shooting line is 59.6/56/100. He also leads the NBA in effective field goal percentage at 73.7. While this is not sustainable, Curry boasts a career three-point percentage of 44.8 and is an elite threat from the outside. Of all the moves Daryl Morey made this offseason, acquiring Curry for Josh Richardson and a second-round pick appears to be his finest.
Another ‘professional win’
While there isn’t much sexy about hanging on to beat the team with the worst record in the NBA, this could be a sign of growth for the Sixers.
These are the kind of games the Sixers would lose under Brett Brown last season – on the road in the second half of a back-to-back against an inferior opponent. They weren’t at their best Saturday night, but they did enough to win, including getting stops and making big free throws late.
While Rivers certainly deserves credit for the way his team took care of business on the road, a lot of it has to go to the players themselves. Simmons remembers losing games like this in previous seasons, but he’s putting that in the rearview.
“Overall, it’s a new season,” Simmons said. “Guys mature, guys get better. I think we’re just trying to find our identity. Defensively, it starts there, so if we’re able to get stops that’s going to lead to easy buckets. Then offensively, we know what works for us. We know where to go, especially tonight. I think we ran the offensive side well.”
The Sixers won’t do cartwheels about being 3-4 on the road, but they are 3-0 away from the Wells Fargo Center when their entire starting lineup is healthy.