Over the last week, the Philadelphia 76ers have had to play without their starting point guard, Ben Simmons. With their other All-Star Joel Embiid still in the mix, it seemed the Sixers had a good chance of holding the fort down without Simmons.
That's not the way it went down, though. Without Simmons, the Sixers took on four-straight losses by the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, and the Milwaukee Bucks twice. While Simmons' absence can't be the sole reason the Sixers fell short four times in a row, his absence was absolutely significant.
“We missed him a ton,” said Sixers head coach Doc Rivers ahead of Monday's matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. “I was joking with another coach. He called me and said, ‘If anyone ever asks you about how important Ben is on offense, just show them the last four games.'”
Without Simmons, the Sixers lacked a high-speed playmaker who can create shots for the teammates that surround him on offense. Also, they missed an elite wing defender, who's a Defensive Player of the Year candidate on the other side of the ball.
Although his four-game absence was a difficult obstacle for the 76ers to overcome, the three-time All-Star would make his return on Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. On Sunday, Simmons was originally ruled out. When Monday afternoon rolled around, he was upgraded to questionable.
By the time Simmons went through his pregame warmup, he felt good enough to report to the team that he was ready to play. So, the Sixers cleared him for action and inserted Simmons into the starting lineup on Monday night. His head coach Doc Rivers, to no surprise, was quite impressed.
"I thought he was great, you know, it's just the point I made before the game," Rivers said after the Sixers defeated the Thunder 121-90. "I was talking about the coach who called me and said, 'If anybody talks about his value on offense, just watch.' First play of the game, we got a three. It was created by Ben Simmons. I think he was really good [on offense]."
Simmons checked into Monday night's game for a little over 22 minutes. Although he only got up eight shots of his own, the veteran guard was efficient as he drained six of his field-goal attempts for 12 points and picked up four assists.
"I thought defensively he was even better tonight," Rivers concluded. "You could see he had his legs and had great energy. So, that was good. He had great energy, great pace. You know, it was Ben being Ben."