By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 25, 2018
Philadelphia 115, Chicago 101 – Box Score
Earlier this week, the NBA announced its All-Star reserve selections. Ben Simmons was not one of them, a fact that was slightly disappointing for Sixers fans, I’m sure, but felt like the right call. After a hot start to the season, Simmons had hit something of a rookie wall lately. Call it defenses figuring him out with more tape on him, simple regression to the mean, who can say, but the former LSU Tiger hadn’t even recorded a double-double since mid-December.
Wednesday night, however, Ben Simmons showed why there are unlikely to be many more seasons when he does miss the All-Star team. With T.J. McConnell missing the game due to the death of his father-in-law, and both J.J. Redick and Jerryd Bayless still injured, Brett Brown said before the game he was going to need to rely on Simmons even more than usual. The rookie seemed to take it to heart, coming out with arguably his most aggressive game of the season.
Simmons put his mark on the game right out of the gates with 8 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists in the first quarter alone. It didn’t hurt that his teammates were on fire from the perimeter. Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot all made four threes on the game, as the Sixers shot 50% from downtown as a team. Saric, who was a whopping +31 for the game against Chicago, is now shooting 37.7% on threes this season. He deserves all the credit in the world for improving his shot and making the somewhat awkward fit between he, Simmons, and Joel Embiid work.
With the Sixers having Australian heritage night in the arena, their prized Australian 6’10” point guard kept the pressure on the Bulls throughout the game. One minute into the second half, Simmons reached a triple-double; he would ultimately finish with a ridiculous stat line of 19 points, 17 rebounds, and 14 assists. Ben even did a decent job at the foul line, knocking down 7 of 10 attempts.
Philadelphia did a better job than usual taking care of the ball, only turning it over 14 times as a team. They led by as many as 25 points, and unlike far too many games this season, the huge advantage was never in danger of completely collapsing. It was refreshing to have a drama-free win for a change.
Before the game, it was announced Embiid, Simmons, and Saric were all selected to the World team of the Rising Stars game. As an All-Star starter, Embiid will likely not participate, but having three of the top young players in the league is representative of the incredibly bright future for the Sixers. Now back to two games over .500 and featuring a rookie point guard capable of nearly having a triple-double at halftime, though, it’s also fair for Sixers fans to do plenty of thinking about the present.