Ben Simmons Displayed 'Contagious' Energy When it Mattered Most vs. Nets
The criticism for Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons' fourth-quarter performances have rung loud as of late. While Simmons has been undeniably productive on the offensive side of the ball in a majority of the first half games without Joel Embiid on the floor, there has been a massive dip in production during the second half of those games when it comes to Simmons' point totals.
It was hard to avoid. Considering that Simmons is one of the more polarizing players in the NBA -- especially in his own city -- the criticism was hard to miss. The second half numbers over the last few games told a story that indicated Simmons quits in the second half. But his head coach Brett Brown believed that notion is outrageous.
"Ben Simmons' judgment world is bizarre to me, and oftentimes, amazingly unfair," Brown said on Monday before the Sixers took on the Brooklyn Nets for an afternoon meeting. The offense may be what the public focuses on the most -- but on Brett Brown's team, the defense is key. "You judge it holistically about his defense and how he created for others, and I view him in that light."
Hours after Brown defended his young star, Simmons went into the matchup against Brooklyn with what seemed like a chip on his shoulder. In the past, Simmons has been known to show up and show out when he takes a lot of heat and criticism from the public. And the Nets found that out first-hand last season in the playoffs.
This time around, they saw the same intensity from the third-year guard. Simmons and the Sixers might not have been off to the hottest start on Monday afternoon. But when the second half began, Ben Simmons decided to turn his intensity up a few notches and essentially put the team on his back.
There was no way the Sixers were going to lose on Monday. Not with the way Simmons led his teammates. Despite leading the team in scoring with a tied career-high of 34 points to go with his triple-double, Simmons' relentless energy rubbed off on everybody else, which lit a fire under the 76ers late in the game.
"Ben's energy is contagious," said Sixers' veteran center, Al Horford, after the win over the Nets. "At the level that he was playing, that kind of All-NBA type, taking over the game, I just think it really rubbed off on all of us." Despite playing with a hand sprain, Horford bought into Simmons' energy and turned his intensity up too, as he drained 19 points, with a critical block, and perhaps the most important three-pointer to ice the game.
After the win, Brett Brown acknowledged Simmons' tenacity, echoing the same sentiment as Horford. "Simmons was ridiculously dominant tonight," Brown said. "There was a determination; there was a spirit, there was a committed performance, offensively and defensively, that he just wasn't gonna let the team lose."
We can credit part of Simmons' dominance to Joel Embiid's absence. Since the big man has been out and will continue to be out for the time being, Simmons understands he has to take his game up a notch. So far, Simmons has proven he can lead his team to victory. Now the only question left is, can he sustain this level of energy?
Being that the third-year guard has played just under 40 minutes-per-game since Embiid has been out, fatigue could come into play at some point. For now, though, Simmons seems to be in great shape and is doing all that he can to churn out wins as the Sixers' dominant center continues to heal from his injury.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_