NEW YORK — This was the Ben Simmons that 76ers coach Brett Brown always raves about.
The All-Star’s versatility was on full display Monday in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee against the Brooklyn Nets.
Simmons finished with a career-high-tying 34 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists, 5 steals, 2 blocks, and 3 turnovers in the Sixers’ 117-111 victory at the Barclays Center. He made 12 of 14 shots and went 10-for-14 from the foul line.
Brown called the standout “ridiculously dominant.”
“He was just multi-skilled, used all over the place in multiple positions — ballhandler, screen-setter, post target,” Brown said. “He was on the five man [center] defensively. He was just incredible ....”
Simmons said he focused on providing energy.
“Just giving my guys defensive energy, pushing the ball, communicating, just using my voice on the floor,” he said. “I just came in with that mindset to win. I know it’s going to be tough every time we play a team like this. I just wanted to win.”
Simmons even excelled in the point center role that he played at times during the game. The Nets (18-24) had no answers for him when he posted up.
Brooklyn reserve center Nicolas Claxton, a rookie, really had his hands full trying to guard the 6-foot-10, 240-pounder. And it didn’t help Brooklyn that Sixers reserve point guard Raul Neto kept feeding Simmons in the right spot.
“It’s tough for any bigs to guard me when I am going at them,” Simmons said. "That is not a knock on any bigs, but I am pretty fast and can get to the rim.
“Then you got a guy like Raul who has great touch, great basketball IQ, and he is able to find me and just make a lot of plays and make good reads off the pick.”
All that contributed to his fourth triple-double of the season and 26th in 203 career games for the NBA Eastern Conference player of the week. He became the first Sixers player with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and 6 steals since George McGinnis accomplished the feat on Feb. 8, 1976, against the Buffalo Braves.
“There was a determination,” Brown said of Simmons. “There was a spirit. There was a committed performance offensive and defensively, and he wasn’t going to let the team lose. We’re all going to look at his stat and say, wow."
His heroics helped the Sixers (29-16) win their second straight road game after losing their previous six.
However, this game went down to the wire.
Furkan Korkmaz’s three-pointer with 23.4 seconds left gave the Sixers a 113-108 advantage. Spencer Dinwiddle responded by hitting a three-pointer to close the gap to two points (113-111) with 20.8 remaining.
The Sixers went on to win by six points after Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris sandwiched foul shots around a Simmons block of Spencer Dinwiddie’s shot with 8.2 seconds left.
Al Horford added 19 points for the Sixers one day after being listed as questionable with a sprained left hand. The five-time All-Star had tape on his wrist and around his thumb.
Horford hurt his hand while being fouled and falling hard on it in the third quarter of Saturday’s victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. But he remained in the game. This marked his seventh start at center while Joel Embiid is sidelined after tearing a ligament in his left ring finger.
Harris and Richardson had 15 points each, while Korkmaz had 10 points in a reserve role.
Dinwiddie led the Nets with 22 points on 6-for-17 shooting.
Norvel Pelle missed the game because his expiring two-way contract came into play. The reserve center has only one day left toward the maximum number of days the Sixers are allowed to have him on the roster with his two-way deal.
The initial plan was to sign him to the 15-man roster or release him after his 45 days. The Sixers have been stretching those days out by recalling him only on game days when needed. He also sat out Friday’s 100-89 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
The Sixers will have to waive a player in order to fit Pelle on the 15-man roster. Philly could opt not to release Pelle after his two-way contract expires. In that scenario, he would have to remain with the Delaware Blue Coats until the conclusion of the NBA G League at the end of March. He could then play with the Sixers until the end of the NBA regular season. However, as a two-way player, he would not be eligible for the playoffs.
That would leave the shorthanded Sixers at a huge disadvantage, considering he’s their best rim protector and moved ahead of Kyle O’Quinn on the depth chart.
The Sixers realize his impact. So don’t be surprised if they make a roster move before the Feb. 6 trade deadline to make room for Pelle.