Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons wasn't on the path to playing one of his best offensive games on Friday night in Game 3 against the Atlanta Hawks. Following a 4-point performance in Game 2, the criticism regarding Simmons' lack of scoring reared its head once again in the couple of days leading up to Game 3.
While Simmons and Sixers head coach Doc Rivers tend to focus solely on the veteran guard's ability to create scoring elsewhere rather than focus on Simmons racking up the points himself, Philly needed more from somebody else in the starting lineup as Joel Embiid drew triple teams and Tobias Harris couldn't do it all on his own.
Heading into halftime on Friday night, Simmons had just four points in 17 minutes of action. As he took just five shots in the first half, Rivers realized that wouldn't cut it. As expected, Rivers didn't want Simmons going out and launching ill-advised shots for the sake of shooting, but he felt the All-Star guard played too passive early on and gave up too many scoring chances for himself.
“We just thought he passed up too many opportunities in the fast break and at the post," Rivers explained on Friday night after the game. But instead of moving away from Simmons, Rivers urged him to be more aggressive as the offense was then going to run through the point guard.
"We told him we were going to come out and feature him on the post and be aggressive with the pass first,” Rivers continued. “I always think when you start him out, passing on the post, then he gets aggressive in the game. He was great for us. It’s exactly what we needed with his pace and power. It was great.”
As Simmons flipped a switch in the second half, the Sixers started clicking more than ever on Friday night. In nine minutes coming out of the half, Simmons went four-for-five from the field and three-for-six from the line collecting 11 points.
“I was just trying to push the pace and get in the lanes to find my guys, stay aggressive, and get to the rim to cause them to foul and get in some rhythm,” Simmons explained. “I think I did a good job that in the second half.”
Although the production went down again in the fourth quarter as the Sixers started taking it easy on their path to victory, Simmons ultimately finished the night with 18 points in 33 minutes of action. His contributions helped the Sixers achieve a 127-111 victory, gaining a 2-1 lead over the Hawks in the second-round series.