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Ben Simmons’ first three-pointer: What does it really mean? | Off the Dribble

Al Horford talked about how important the potential of Simmons' being a perimeter threat is for spacing.

Sixers point guard Ben Simmons looks to pass over the Celtics' Robert Williams during the season opener.
Sixers point guard Ben Simmons looks to pass over the Celtics' Robert Williams during the season opener.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

The 76ers have sure made things exciting at home, more than the fans would probably like to see. It certainly hasn’t been dull at the Wells Fargo Center, where the Sixers are 5-0.

From the 117-95 win over Minnesota that featured the Joel Embiid-KAT altercation, to a 98-97 win over Cleveland and on Wednesday, overcoming a 17-point third quarter deficit to beat the New York Knicks, 109-104, it’s been fun.

Plenty happened in the win over the Knicks, including the first three-point field goal of Ben Simmons’ career.

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Is Simmons starting a new trend?

One of the only people who wasn’t overly excited about his three-pointer was Simmons himself. Even though he had yet to try one this season and was 0-for-17 in his two previous seasons from beyond the arc (and 0-for-1 in the playoffs), Simmons downplayed things big-time.

Simmons showed little emotion when he made the shot and is clearly annoyed any time the topic is broached.

Still, it is something his teammates were excited to see, simply because it makes the Sixers a more potent offense if Simmons can hit some shots from distance.

According to stats, Simmons has made 73 field goals and 71 have come from nine feet or closer, including 62 from less than five feet.

Teams pack it in on Simmons, giving the interior players less room to operate. The chance to have better spacing was a reason his teammates were so enthusiastic about Simmons’ three-pointer.

“We need him to shoot and it was great to see him make it — take it, but most importantly make it,” Joel Embiid said after the game.

Al Horford talked about how important the potential of Simmons being a perimeter threat is for spacing.

“I think it will open things up even more and will make us more dangerous because teams won’t be able to help as much and clog the lane,” Horford said after Thursday’s practice. “I was just happy to see Ben [make one]. He has been doing it every day in practice.”

Since the preseason, countless teammates have echoed what Horford said about Simmons hitting long-range shots in practice.

Now that he has done it in an actual game, it will be interesting to see if he will continue to launch from long range. During the preseason, colleague Keith Pompey predicted Simmons would make 21 threes this season. We’ll still take the under on that total, but the Sixers hope it gets to the point that a Simmons three-point attempt is no big deal.

We’re not at that point just yet.

Starting five

  1. I write that Embiid is scheduled to play in both games this weekend, against San Antonio on Friday and Miami on Saturday.

  2. After Thursday’s practice, coach Brett Brown was talking about the Spurs as if they were still an NBA power instead of a struggling 5-10 team.

  3. David Murphy poses the question: Is this the time for Trey Burke to receive additional minutes?

  4. The Sixers miss the outside shooting of JJ Redick. Here is my story after visiting with the New Orleans Pelicans guard earlier this month.

  5. This is my best and worst from the Sixers’ win over the Knicks.

The mighty have fallen

The San Antonio Spurs are among the model franchises in the NBA, but the club visiting the Sixers on Friday has fallen on hard times.

The Spurs (5-10) enter with a seven-game losing streak. San Antonio won five NBA titles under Gregg Popovich, now in his 24th season as the team’s head coach. The Spurs have made the playoffs 22 consecutive years.

Here are some statistics courtesy of Heather Ward of the Spurs media relations staff.

The last time the Spurs lost seven straight was Feb. 23 to March 5, 1997, under Popovich, and the last time they lost eight straight was from Nov. 15-30, 1996, under Bob Hill.

The Spurs’ 22 consecutive playoff appearances is the longest active streak among basketball, football, baseball and hockey teams.

Here are the current longest postseason streaks in each of those four sports.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs, 22 years

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins, 13 years

NFL: New England Patriots, 10 years

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers, 7 years

Coming games

Tonight: San Antonio Spurs at Sixers, 8 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia and ESPN

Saturday: Miami Heat at Sixers, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia

Monday: Sixers at Toronto Raptors, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia

Wednesday: Sacramento Kings at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia

Nov. 29: Sixers at New York Knicks, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus

From the mailbag

Question: Tobias [Harris] looks lost at some points throughout the game. Definitely looks less confident than last year. @thegeneral12341 — Jim Geene.

Answer: Thanks for your comment, Jim, which came in response to the last newsletter, when Harris talked about how his confidence has never wavered, even during an earlier six-game stretch when he shot 1-for-24 from three-point range.

Harris is extremely confident, which is why he kept shooting despite his struggles. It takes a confident player to keep firing while going 0-for-11 from three-point territory, as he did in the 98-97 win over Cleveland. He is shooting only 26.7% from three-point range. If Sixers fans are looking for a positive, Harris is 6-for-11 from three-point range in his last three games and he will continue to fire, whether he is on or off target.