The 76ers praised Ben Simmons on a day he finished with six points and missed all six of his free throws.
That’s because the point guard had a postseason career-highs of 15 assists and 15 rebounds at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers will tell you his all-around performance helped them defeat the Washington Wizards, 125-118, in Sunday’s Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.
“I thought he was special,” coach Doc Rivers said of Simmons. “Whoever he guarded struggled scoring, he created so many points for us, off the glass to three, off transition to three, creating switches that they didn’t want to have.
“He is just a treasure. He is something that you don’t see a lot of in this league and he has such a skill set that’s so different. ... All I see is his greatness and I just want him to keep doing what he’s doing.”
Simmons joined Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain as the only Sixers to finish with at least 15 rebounds and 15 assists in a postseason game. Chamberlain accomplished the feat on March 24, 1967 against the Cincinnati Royals. He had 30 rebounds and 19 assists.
LeBron James, Fat Lever, and Hall of Famers Jason Kidd and Magic Johnson are the only other players in NBA history to do it.
This also marked the first time a Sixer had 15 assists in a playoff game since Allen Iverson did it against the Detroit Pistons on April 29, 2005.
“I just try to make winning plays and do what I can to help this team and be the point guard and run the team,” Simmons said. “Put guys in the right positions, run the right sets, if somebody’s feeling it, keep giving them the ball. I think overall today we did a good job of that.”
However, he’ll have to improve his free-throw shooting. His final four misses came in the fourth quarter. Simmons made just 3 of 9 shots from the field.
“He did what he does,” Danny Green said. “He’s gonna settle in, he’ll be fine. The biggest thing for us is getting him mentally ready and confident to step to that free-throw line and knock them down.”
But Green noted that Simmons got in the paint and pushed the pace. Green also commended Simmons for being active on defense.
“He made it tough on Brad [Beal]. Brad does what he does, so that’s a hard assignment for any individual, but I know he’ll settle in with each game. The key for us is building momentum.”
Beal paced the Wizards with 33 points. He made tough shots while shooting 13-for-23.
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The Wells Fargo Center was rockin’ Sunday afternoon.
The opening-round postseason game was played in front of crowd 11,160 fans, which is around 50% capacity for the arena. That was the maximum number of fans allowed in the arena due to the pandemic.
Before Sunday, the Sixers’ largest home crowd was around 5,000, which is 25% capacity of the 20,155-seat arena.
Rivers was asked how sweet it was grind out the win with the support of the extra fans in the arena.
“I can’t believe that was 10,000, 11,000,” Rivers said. “There’s no way. I think we’re counting like the Republicans, because it felt like 30,000 people in the stands. They were amazing.
“So let’s keep it going. It’s so nice to have that at home.”