Basically, the 76ers had had enough, enough of losing three games to good teams and another to a not so good one. So they returned from a four-game road losing skid determined to turn things around at the Wells Fargo Center.
The result Monday night was a 120-113 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that had won five in a row and nine of its previous 10.
Before that, the Sixers had lost by 98-97 in Orlando and 117-116 in overtime in Miami. The Sixers then were handled, 115-87, at Indiana before Friday’s 118-108 loss at Houston.
“What I felt in the locker room was we haven’t played at a level we wanted to play at, which has produced losing,” coach Brett Brown said after Monday’s win. “At times, enough is enough.”
The catalyst in breaking the losing streak was point guard Ben Simmons, who despite being in foul trouble in the third quarter was a force on both ends of the floor.
“I hate losing,” Simmons said afterward. “In my head, I am coning home and playing in front of my fans and I am going to give everything I got and do what I can to get that win.”
He got 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting, along with eight assists and a season-high 15 rebounds in 37 minutes and 54 seconds.
As impressive as Simmons was on offense, he was just as dominant on the other end. He was matched up mainly with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the talented second-year guard who entered the game averaging 19.9 points and was averaging 24.6 during the Thunder’s five-game winning streak.
The 6-foot-6 former Kentucky Wildcat had 14 points, but attempted just 13 shots. He was 6-for-13 from the field but missed all three of his three-point attempts.
“Just trying to do what I always do,” Simmons said about his defense. “Play hard, not give up easy shots. Hands up, just playing defense.”
Demonstrating his two-way value, Simmons had a game-best plus-18 rating.
Simmons picked up his fourth foul and left the game with 8:46 remaining in the third quarter and the Sixers leading, 71-58. He returned with 3:15 to go in the quarter and the Sixers holding on to an 81-78 lead. The game remained close until the Sixers went on a 7-0 run to increase their lead to 115-106 with just 55.4 seconds left in the game.
“Ben was our bell ringer tonight,” Brown said, his term for their star of the game.
Possibly the best statistic that Simmons had was just two turnovers. That was in stark contrast to the Indiana game, when he had three assists and six turnovers.
Simmons is coming off his second big game. He had 29 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, with three turnovers, during the loss at Houston.
Against OKC, Simmons played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, in which the Sixers outscored the Thunder, 30-27. In that quarter, he had four points, one assist and no turnovers, but he made his greatest contribution in rebounds with six and didn’t pick up another foul.
His rebounding was crucial because Joel Embiid had suffered a dislocated left ring finger in the first quarter. Embiid returned and had a major impact with 18 points, nine rebounds and a season-high eight assists, but said the injury didn’t allow him to use two hands to rebound.