While Ben Simmons’ lack of a perimeter game has been well documented, the 76ers point guard is taking the ball to the basket more aggressively and more often.
That was certainly the case Friday in a 100-89 win over the Chicago Bulls.
Simmons had a field day either driving to the basket or posting up.
He shot 10-for-17 for the game and all 10 field goals were around the basket.
With Joel Embiid missing his fifth consecutive game because of a torn ligament in the ring finger of his left hand, there are more opportunities near the basket.
Simmons took advantage of the space. Of his 10 field goals, seven were dunks, two were reverse layups, and another was a running finger roll. So he had the mindset to get as close to the basket as possible.
“I was just trying to take advantage of it, knowing I have smaller guys on me,” the 6-foot-10 Simmons said. "And making my presence known down low. "
It’s not only that Simmons can score near the basket. He can also do other things from the low post. He had 11 rebounds and seven assists.
A number of assists came when Simmons was double-teamed in the post and kicked the ball out to an open three-point shooter.
Furkan Korkmaz, who reached career highs in points (24) and made three-pointers (six), was the main beneficiary of those plays.
The Sixers broke the game open during a 35-24 third quarter. Korkmaz went 4-for-4 from beyond the arc in the period, with three of the assists coming from Simmons.
“I am getting really comfortable with Ben because he is creating a lot of space for me,” Korkmaz said. “He is getting a lot of attention on the court.”
Korkmaz knows how difficult it is do deal with Simmons because he has to guard him in practice.
“I can also understand defensive players and teams, [knowing] it is hard to guard him,” Korkmaz said. “They have to choose one of us, and that is why he is getting a lot of attention. He knows that I can shoot, and I think he also helps me on the court, get the open looks, and that really helps my confidence.”
Simmons, who entered the game ninth in the NBA in minutes per game, played 37 minutes, 9 seconds against the Bulls. He is averaging 35:47 per game.
As effective as he was taking advantage of his height around the basket, Simmons was also a factor on defense. He ended the game with a plus-17 rating.
“After the first timeout in the third period, are you serious, he was like the adult in the room defensively,” coach Brett Brown said.
The Sixers were trailing 58-55 with 8:14 left in the third quarter when the timeout was called.
In a span of a little over six minutes, the Sixers jumped out to their largest lead of the game, 77-63, with 2:07 left in the third. Korkmaz hit a three, and Simmons had the assist.
“He is a physical presence by a lot when you watch him play defense,” Brown said. “I thought he changed the game.”
Then Brown asked a question he has raised frequently this year: “How can he not be a first team all-[NBA] defensive player?”
The Sixers visit the New York Knicks on Saturday, looking to snap a six-game losing streak on the road.
Even Simmons is still searching for answers to the Sixers’ road struggles. They are 7-14 on the road and 20-2 at home.
“If I knew the answer, we would probably fix it on the road,” he said.
He said it always starts on the defensive end.
“It comes down to playing defense, locking in the first through fourth quarters and keeping that mentality and not letting up,” Simmons said.