The game went on as planned. And in the process, Ben Simmons sank his first career three-pointer.
The 76ers third-year point guard buried a 27-footer in Tuesday night’s 144-86 victory over the Guangzhou Loong-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association.
His attempt of a three-pointer was an uncertainty heading into Tuesday night’s game. But the moment came with the Lions leaving Simmons wide-open on the perimeter in the closing seconds of the first half.
The Wells Fargo Center crowd chanted for Simmons to shoot the ball as he dribbled near the Sixers’ bench.
“The time went down,” Simmons said. “I had the ball. So I had to take a shot.”
And even for a preseason game, it was the biggest shot of his career.
After taking a couple of steps, he buried the shot to put the Sixers up, 82-41, with 2.3 seconds left before intermission.
“We wanted him to shoot it, for sure,” said teammate Tobias Harris.
Then Harris made light of all the attention Simmons has gotten over his jump shot since the summer. People had been wondering if could hit a three-pointer in a game.
“He’s one of the best shooters to ever shoot the basketball,” Harris said. “So let it fly. He’s 100 percent. I don’t want to hear nothing.”
The crowd erupted in what was by far the highlight of the mismatch.
The shot was the culmination of all the hard work Simmons put in over the summer, which he spent working out with renowned trainer Chris Johnson in Los Angeles. Johnson, who still works with Simmons, has trained the likes of LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, and Harris, among other NBA talents.
Last season, opponents backed off Simmons when he had the ball on the perimeter. At times, they didn’t even guard him at all since he was hesitant to shoot. That put the Sixers at a huge disadvantage with him as the team’s primary ballhandler.
For his career, Simmons is 0-for-17 on three-pointers in the regular season. He had been 0-for-1 in the preseason for his career.
“I work every day,” he said of his shooting. “So to me, it like shows. I’m in the gym every day, putting in work. I feel like it’s paying off.”
Simmons has been making three-pointers in practice. His teammates have watched him “make rep after rep,” according to rookie Matisse Thybulle.
“I think that was really good to have everyone see the amount of work he has put in,” Thybulle said, “and watch it carry over to the big stage.”
But not all of the Sixers were able to do cartwheels over Simmons’ three-pointers.
Coach Brett Brown didn’t really have a reaction to the milestone.
“I think the whole thing is overblown,” he said of the attention given to Simmons’ shot. “In general, it is so inflated, the attention. ... He is young. We have a long season.
“I am just not going to react over it. He made a three.”
On Tuesday, the Australia native finished with 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting -- including his lone three-point attempt – in three quarters of action. He also had eight rebounds, seven assists, one steal, a block and three turnovers.
Joel Embiid, who played just in the first half, had 17 points, including 9-for-9 from the foul line, and three rebounds. Josh Richardson scored 16 points and made 3-of-5 three-pointers.
Meanwhile, reserves Trey Burke and James Ennis had 11 points apiece. Thybulle, a rookie, added 10 points and game highs of three steals and two blocks off the bench.
The first half provided a glimpse of what the Sixers’ rotation might look like this season.
Thybulle and Ennis were the first two players off the bench. Burke was next to come in, followed by Mike Scott and Kyle O’Quinn. Those five reserves made up the White team (backups) in Saturday’s Blue and White scrimmage.
This matchup was still played after all of the discourse between the NBA and China, on the heels of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet Friday showing support for protesters in Hong Kong. The Chinese government was upset over the since-deleted tweet. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he and the league were “apologetic” to those who were upset over Morey’s comments. However, he would not apologize for the general manager exercising his right to freedom of expression.
As a result, China’s state broadcaster canceled plans to air this week’s NBA China games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets.
Tuesday night’s outcome was far from a surprise, considering the Lions suffered a blowout loss to former local college athletes Sunday at Temple.
Two fans seated about six rows behind the Lions’ bench displayed signs in protest. One of the signs read, “FREE HONG KONG.” The other sign read ‘FREE HK.’ One of the protesters wore a black T-shirt with white “FREE HONG KONG” lettering. The Lions did not open the locker room for media availability following the game.