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Sixers don't always need A-plus performance from their stars to win

Joel Embiid said he felt that he and Ben Simmons didn't have big games, but the Sixers were still able to win on Friday against a solid Indiana Pacers team.

Sixers guard Ben Simmons passes, surrounded by Pacers forwards Thaddeus Young (right) and Bojan Bogdanovic on Friday.
Sixers guard Ben Simmons passes, surrounded by Pacers forwards Thaddeus Young (right) and Bojan Bogdanovic on Friday.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

As the 76ers improve and the stakes are higher, earning top grades for the players is apparently becoming more difficult.

Or maybe it's just the standards have been raised with the team's growth.

Either way, it was fitting that, after Friday's 121-110 win over the Indiana Pacers, both coach Brett Brown and center Joel Embiid mentioned that it wasn't Ben Simmons' best game.

And this came after Simmons earned the second triple-double of his nine-game NBA career.

Tough graders?

Embiid, who had 18 points and nine rebounds, but also six turnovers, was just as difficult on himself.

"I don't think I had a good game, and Ben had a triple-double, he had an average game, too," Embiid said after the game.

In speaking about Simmons, Brown, whose team begins a five-game road trip Tuesday in Utah, sort of agreed.

"If Ben and I sat in a room, I would say to him, 'I thought you were a C-plus and you come out and he had 11 [assists], 11 [rebounds] and 14 [points]," Brown said after the game. "It just shows when we come out and say he was an A-minus or B-plus and is rolling out larger numbers, to be able to say, 'I think he was OK tonight,' but to look at his stat sheet … he can really [fill] a stat sheet with how active and athletic he is."

In 38 minutes, 32 seconds Simmons shot 5 of 13 from the field and made all four of his foul shots, but what helped lower his grade were the five turnovers.

Not long ago — April for instance — the Sixers needed their best players to be at their best just to be competitive with other teams.

Not that the Sixers don't need Simmons and Embiid at their best most nights, but what Friday showed is that this team has players who can pick up when the two standouts are less than superhuman.

Embiid missed a few dunks, but still shot 7 for 15, but he wasn't satisfied with his play.

Brown also mentioned some other flaws the Sixers displayed.

"I thought our middle pick-and-roll defense stunk and I thought at times our defense in transition stunk tonight," said Brown, who gave the team off from practice on Saturday and Sunday.

Yet he said it was positive that the Sixers were able to overcome these mistakes, improve on them in the second half and win. And make no mistake about it, it came against a solid Pacers team.

Brown, whose 5-4 team has won four in a row, talked about how it's much easier to get the team's attention when pointing out flaws after a win, as happened Friday.

What helped overcome the flaws is that there is more depth on the team, with JJ Redick and Robert Covington shooting a combined 13 for 21 from beyond the arc. That will compensate for a fair share of other mistakes.

"This group is at times so painfully young with just crazy turnovers or things that aren't going by script, but they play together and play hard," Brown said.

And what they are finding out is that it doesn't always take an A-plus performance from the A-list players to win these days for the Sixers.