The 76ers scored 108 points in their first preseason game, which is impressive considering they didn’t run a single offensive play, according to Ben Simmons.
“Overall, I think we looked solid for having no plays in. I think we looked great,” Simmons said Tuesday after a 108-99 win over the Boston Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center.
No plays in?
“We didn’t run a single play overall, really,” Simmons said. “I think the guys looked good. We want to build that chemistry up. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but I think we looked good.”
Simmons had an efficient game in his return to action. In the NBA’s restart, he suffered a season-ending knee injury that required surgery during a 107-98 win over the Washington Wizards on Aug. 5. The injury was a partial dislocation of the left kneecap.
In his return, Simmons enjoyed a solid all-around game. He scored 10 points on 3-for-5 shooting and also hit 4 of 5 free throws and recorded six assists, three turnovers and two steals in just over 26 minutes.
Under new coach Doc Rivers, the Sixers will run more pick-and-rolls and also play at a faster pace. In fact, Rivers had to remind Simmons to pick it up in the first quarter.
“I think Ben one time was walking the ball up the court and I jumped up, and just the pace alone puts pressure on teams,” Rivers said.
When he jumped up, it was to tell Simmons to get moving. That was music to the two-time All-Star’s ears.
“I love that,” Simmons said. “I was just trying to get my legs under me, so that first quarter was tough, but once I found them, we got into the flow and went on a stretch where we got like five defensive stops in a row and pushed the lead early. Overall, I love that. I love that Doc is making me be aggressive and telling me to push the ball.”
After earning first-team all-NBA defensive honors last season, Simmons came out strong on that end.
While sweeping the Sixers in last season’s opening playoff round, Boston took great advantage of Simmons’ absence. All-Star Jayson Tatum, one of the budding NBA stars and a player Simmons usually guards, went wild against the Sixers in the playoffs, averaging 27 points.
While nobody should get carried away with a preseason game, Tatum did struggle Tuesday, especially when Simmons was guarding him. Overall, Tatum shot 4-for-13 and missed all four of his three-pointers.
Back to the offense: The free-flowing way that Rivers wants the Sixers to play should suit Simmons’ game well. Despite being 6-foot-10, he is among the fastest NBA players when dribbling.
Rivers said earlier in camp that he wasn’t worried about Simmons’ reluctance to shoot from distance. He wants his point guard to put pressure on the defense and that is by attacking the basket and playing at a faster pace.
“Doc so far has been a great coach in terms of letting us play,” Simmons said. “Giving us instructions on how we want to play, moving the ball, cutting, making guys guard you, finding the open man.”