KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Suddenly, the outcome of the 76ers’ game against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday no longer mattered.
The Sixers’ championship hopes could have a lot to do with how Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Tobias Harris perform in the postseason.
Simmons left in the third quarter of the Sixers’ 107-98 win with a left knee injury and did not return. A MRI Wednesday night reportedly showed no damage. He’s expected to be day-to-day, according to the report.
He grabbed an offensive rebound with 5 minutes, 53 seconds left in the third quarter. He dribbled to the corner before throwing an outlet pass to Al Horford. He then flexed his left leg, appeared to grab the back of his knee, and walked off the court. He gingerly walked back to the locker room, followed by general manager Elton Brand.
The team said only that the knee injury was being evaluated. Yahoo Sports reported that Simmons didn’t experience any swelling or pain.
“Ben, we don’t know,” coach Brett Brown said after the game. “I’m sure the club will make some announcement about Ben’s departure from the court. He left the court. But as far as knowing more than that, I really don’t.
“Obviously, I’m very curious to hear what the news is.”
This was Simmons’ third game back after missing the final eight before the NBA shutdown in March with a pinched nerve in his lower back.
On Wednesday, Simmons had eight points on 2-for-10 shooting and 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 turnovers in 22 minutes, 55 seconds.
The Sixers moved the All-Star point guard to power forward during the restart. Shake Milton became the starting point guard in the process. Simmons looked good in his new role in three preseason games but struggled on the defensive end in the Sixers’ first two seeding games.
On Monday, Simons scored eight points to go with five assists, but he never got into the flow because of foul trouble and eventually went out with 2:12 remaining.
It appeared that things would be better for him early Wednesday.
There’s been discussion about Simmons’ not attempting a three-pointer after making 1 of 2 in the Sixers’ scrimmage opener against the Memphis Grizzlies on July 24.
Well, it didn’t take long for him to hoist one Wednesday. His second shot attempt of the game was a missed 23-foot corner three-pointer 1:39 into the game.
Simmons handled the ball more as a point-forward against the Wizards. That led him to be more active. He attempted two of the Sixers’ first four shots en route to scoring five points on 2-for-6 in the first quarter.
The Australian had only six total shots Monday against the Spurs. He finished that game with eight points before fouling out with 2:12 remaining.
On Wednesday, Philly went into the second quarter leading 26-20 after Shake Milton’s three-pointer before the first-quarter buzzer.
But at the 5:14 mark of the second quarter, Simmons showed why he’s at his best with the ball in his hands. The 6-foot-10, 250-pounder had a mismatch with 6-foot former Sixer Ish Smith guarding him. Simmons backed Smith up, drove the lane, and fired a pass to a wide-open Josh Richardson. Richardson buried a three-pointer to put the Sixers ahead 41-36.
Philly went on to build a 10-point cushion before Jerome Robinson buried a three-pointer before the buzzer to cut their lead to seven (54-47). The Sixers (41-27) went on to win by nine points.
Embiid had game highs of 30 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks before fouling out late. Harris had 17 points. Richardson finished with 15 points and Milton had 14.
Thomas Bryant and Robinson had 19 points apiece to lead the Wizards (24-44).
Like the Sixers’ first two opponents, the Wizards were missing major contributors. All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal is out with a minor rotator cuff injury. Standout reserve forward Davis Bertans opted to sit out the NBA restart, while reserve guard Garrison Matthews did not travel with the Wizards for personal reasons.
Sixers reserves Mike Scott (right knee soreness) and Glenn Robinson (left hip pointer) missed their third consecutive game with injuries. Both players participated in pregame warmups and looked good knocking down shots.
Kyle O’Quinn was back with the Sixers after testing negative for COVID-19 on Tuesday. The reserve center was ineligible Monday against the Spurs because he missed his test Sunday. The NBA players are tested daily.
The Sixers’ next game is Friday against the Orlando Magic.