When Ben Simmons attacks the basket, the Sixers are a better team. Ask the Lakers.
Simmons was aggressive with the ball against LeBron James and Anthony Davis, two of the NBA's best defenders. End result was a triple-double and a 76ers victory.
Ben Simmons admits he has to keep reminding himself to stay aggressive offensively and attack the basket. It’s a constant battle for the 76ers point guard because his first inclination is to help set up his teammates.
“Sometimes I have to remind myself to stay that way, applying pressure, just try to apply pressure all night,” said Simmons after earning his 31st triple double with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists and just one turnover during Wednesday’s 107-106 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. “Not giving them any opportunity to slack off or take breaks, so just going at them every time I had a chance.”
The Sixers (13-6) now begin a three-game road trip starting Friday in Minnesota.
Simmons began the game with an attacking mindset, scoring the Sixers’ first two baskets on drives, including the second that was finished off with a dunk after he blew by LeBron James.
Simmons shot 8 for 15 from the field, which was a season-high for him in both categories.
There were times, even in this game, where Simmons put on the breaks and wasn’t as aggressive. He admitted that it is a constant battle to keep attacking.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “Personally, I might get caught up in trying to get guys shots and then getting guys into rhythm,” he said. “It’s not easy being a point guard and doing that so I’m just trying to find a balance [between] being aggressive and getting the score and then finding my guys.”
Not surprisingly, all eight of Simmons’ field goals were near the basket, the furthest one out was a 5-foot jump hook over Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. With his speed and dribbling ability, he can still get to the basket even against top defenders.
Simmons often pulls up when it’s better that he attack.
What he did impressively was attack against good defenders. Two of his drives were against Anthony Davis, a fellow all-defensive first-team selection last season.
The key question concerning Simmons is why can’t this happen more?
In last Friday’s 122-110 home win over Boston, he had 11 points in the fourth quarter, aggressively taking it to the basket. The next night in the Sixers’ 114-110 win at Detroit, he attacked early with 16 of his 20 points in the first half. Then in Monday’s 119-104 dud of a loss at Detroit, he reverted to his more passive form.
Simmons has such unique talents that teammate Danny Green says a key is for the Sixers to figure out how to play around him.
“Just [having Simmons] be more aggressive and taking shots and not allowing teams to play him in the paint ... attack them, get to the rim, make some actions happen, go set screens, figure some things out and we will work around him,” said Green, who totaled 14 points and six rebounds.
It’s unrealistic to expect Simmons to attack all the time, especially since he always draws a tough defensive assignment.
Against the Lakers he played 39 minutes and 3 seconds and had to guard LeBron James for long stretches.
“The numbers [for Simmons] will say offense, but the defense and all the other things he did was unbelievable,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said.
Simmons has more of an aggressive mindset when it comes to defense.
“I personally take pride in going out and stopping guys or making it tough on them every night,” Simmons said. “It’s a big part of the game, they say defense wins championships so that is what I am trying to do.”
That is true, but when he is aggressive offensively, the Sixers are a different team.