New Sixers low as Simmons rejects ‘passive’ claim
Another Ben Simmons double-double; but another Philadelphia 76ers loss.
The Australian point guard looked much like a player on the second night of a back-to-back, not playing like his usually-aggressive self, as the 76ers lost their seventh game over the last eight; a 101-95 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
Simmons finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists, only attempting a career-low six shots as his 76ers dropped to 14-16 on the season.
"I don't know," was the reaction of head coach, Brett Brown, when asked why his star player was passive.
Simmons attempted to give another explanation.
"I tried to get everyone; more people involved. I just saw different things on the court," Simmons said after the loss, which was the 76ers' third straight defeat.
"I don't think we've been focusing down the stretch. Missing shots, not coming back on plays; just little things like that. It comes down to us focusing, and making sure we're committed to defence.
"I don't know what it is. If we come together, we'll figure it out as a team. We all wanna win. Everyone wants to be here. It's not one of those things where guys don't wanna win, or anything like that; I think we'll play together.
Zach Randolph led the way for the Kings, posting a game-high 27 points, while Buddy Hield and Frank Mason III combined for 40 points off the bench.
While Simmons finished just one assist shy of a triple-double, he didn't appear to be looking for his own shot, instead deferring to his teammates for much of the affair.
Entering the game, it looked like 21-year-old immediately had taken the advice of his head coach, Brett Brown, which was to shoot more mid-range jump shots. Brown warned the media ahead of time that the world would be seeing more of his Australian's in-between game, and it was evident from the tip.
Simmons hit two shots from around the 15-foot mark in the first quarter, helping the 76ers sustain the onslaught of Randolph, who was dominating the low post on the other end.
From then on, though, Simmons looked at others to score the ball.
What began as a sloppy quarter for the 76ers turned into a productive one, once Brown went to a big frontcourt of Simmons, Trevor Booker, and Richaun Holmes.
A Frank Mason steal and layup in transition gave the Kings a 30-27 edge at the end of the first period, and it was a sign of things to come, because the Kansas Kansas graduate would end up being instrumental for his team.
Hield hit an array of three pointers to further extend the Kings' lead to start the second quarter, but T.J. McConnell proved to be a reliable option for the 76ers, keeping his team within striking distance.
Once Simmons returned after a longer-than-usual rest, he hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 46-46.
Simmons followed that up by connecting with Robert Covington for the alley-oop dunk, before finding J.J. Redick for a three-pointer to cap off an impressive period; the 76ers heading into the half with a 57-48 lead.
A slow, back-end-forth third quarter eventually turned into a tight game, after Mason III found his touch, with the crafty guard leading the way as the Kings cut their deficit to just 73-69.
A Bayless three-pointer re-extended the 76ers' lead, but the game always appeared to be in the balance.
The Kings opened the fourth quarter with six straight points - a Hield three-pointer, followed by a Malichi Richardson hoop-and-harm - forcing Brown to check Simmons back into the game earlier than usual.
Hield hit another three, which gave the Kings their first lead since the second quarter, before Willie Cauley-Stein hit an and-one to extend the lead to 82-78, early in the period.
Bayless hit some timely three-pointers, but Hield, as well as Garrett Temple were able to respond with tough mid-range jump-shots, respectively.
Simmons looked to be aggressive down the stretch, hitting a runner, and drawing the foul, to cut the Kings' lead to 96-92 with just over a minute to play.
Unfortunately for the 76ers, they were unable to get a stop on the other end, with Temple putting back Randolph's miss, before the Kings iced the game with free throws.
The 76ers were without Joel Embiid due to an ongoing back injury, and while Simmons conceded the loss of their star big-man is significant, he's confident his team can rebound.
The next game for Simmons' side is against the Toronto Raptors, also at home, and it won't be an easy task for the 76ers to escape their current slump when they face one of the Eastern Conference's top teams.
"It's frustrating, but I think we can get a great run going down the stretch into Christmas," Simmons said.
"I believe in this team and the coaches here. I don't doubt anybody, or the ability for us to win games.
"Just gotta make shots. Get stops. We'll win games, honestly. I believe we can do it."