Last week, the Philadelphia 76ers played in four straight games without Ben Simmons on the floor. How did that go for them? Well, let's just say that taking on four-straight losses is a good indication that the Sixers missed their floor general.
Simmons might not be the team's leading scorer on offense, but he remains one of their most valuable players on that side of the ball. He's a threat to drive to the basket and score at will. He can creatively make plays and get the ball to the open shooter while making it seem his focus is elsewhere on the court.
Ever since returning to the Sixers following a four-game skid, Simmons' team hasn't lost. A win over the Oklahoma City Thunder was expected, but the 76ers took out the Thunder with authority. Although Philly faced a shorthanded Atlanta Hawks team on Wednesday, the Sixers squashed them with ease.
As the Hawks got slightly healthier on Friday by getting Trae Young back in the mix, the Sixers had a more difficult challenge headed their way. That showed in the first quarter as Atlanta got off to a solid start and outscored the Sixers 26-23.
Ben Simmons kept his team fighting as he shot 5-for-7 from the field and led his team in scoring with 10 points. By the time the second quarter rolled around, the Sixers were no longer struggling against the Hawks as Simmons did what he does best and helped his team make plays and dominate the competition.
“Since he’s been back, he’s been a tone-setter for us,” said 76ers head coach Doc Rivers after Friday night's 126-104 victory over the Hawks. “It’s been absolutely amazing. Not only just with his defense but his offensive drives and his offensive vision. I don’t know if this is the best he’s played all year, but this is close.”
Simmons has had some off sequences this season, which he wasn't blind to. But when he's able to clear the mental blocks that have prevented him from playing aggressively, he's been a key factor to the Sixers' success.
"He’s driving our team right now,” Rivers explained. “A lot of it doesn’t show. He had a play in the third quarter that he just put so much pressure on the defense, and the ball went around the horn. He gets nothing out of that except that play led to us getting a three-pointer -- that’s what he keeps doing.”
In 26 minutes, Simmons finished the night with 18 total points on Friday. He shot 80-percent from the field while collecting five assists, six rebounds, one steal, and one blocked shot. Considering how well he's played over the last three games, it's safe to say Simmons is physically feeling good after battling sickness. Mentally, he's getting there as well as the Sixers take on their final nine games of the season.