After years of waiting for a competitive team, there are plenty of things to remember for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Tonight’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers is not one of them.
The 129-95 loss was the 76ers biggest of the season as the side.
Coming into the match with three triple-doubles in his last six matches, Aussie superstar wasn’t gunning for another one tonight, leading the 76ers scorers with 19 points but contributing just three rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes as the side was crushed by 34 points to move to 23-14 in the side’s farewell game of 2018.
Joel Embiid sat out the match with soreness in his left knee and his absence was deeply felt.
But once again, it was Simmons’ jump shot and outside shooting that had people talking.
Over the past week, the Aussie 22-year-old has pulled out the shot, sinking the longest shot of his career against Boston on Christmas Day with a 22-foot jumper.
He then pulled it out again against the Jazz last week as well with a fadeaway from mid-range.
Ben Simmons getting confidence in his jumper pic.twitter.com/UFvqc89AYa— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights)
Simmons was criticised for his unwillingness to shoot from range in overtime against Boston with several writers arguing defences can double up on Embiid and Butler they don’t “fear” his shot.
Speaking before the game against Portland on NBA Game Day, Simmons was asked about whether he felt any pressure about not taking jumpers.
“For me, it was kind of tough towards the end of the season, I’d hear all these things about shooting the ball,” Simmons said. “But for me, I stepped back, looked at what I was averaging, how our team went and how my first season went and I think we went very well.
“If you look at the accolades and stats that I had as an individual player, they were great. I know I’m going to get to that level, it takes a lot of time and work, dedication and all that but for me, I think it’s just playing the game and having fun and trying to evolve and not worrying about the outside noise.”
For the record, Simmons averaged 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.2 assists in his first season.
Simmons said he had been working hard on the jump shot during the off-season but has only pulled out his new trick with some mid-range shots in recent games.
Although Simmons has previously said he won’t take three-point shots — and hasn’t so far this season — until he’s mastered scoring in the paint, he’s shooting 62 per cent through December.
He said he doesn’t have a goal in mind about when he’ll start attempting three-pointers, it’s more a string he’ll add to his bow over time.
“I think it’s just getting comfortable with my game and evolving over time,” Simmons said.
“It starts day-by-day. It’s not something I’m just going to jump into and start doing, I’m going to get there over time. I’ve been working every day, working hard, getting everything right and trying to get better and trying to lead this team.”
While other criticism has come from Simmons not improving his stats in his second season, he’s already set a lofty standard.
He averages 15.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.1 assists for the season, which is almost a triple-double average for the season and not too far off for his career.
A triple-double average would put Simmons in an exclusive club with only all-time triple-double leader Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook having averaged it across a season, with Westbrook having done it in the last two seasons.
While this would add another string to his bow, Simmons is happy to develop.
“It comes down to time. This is my second year playing so for me, I’m not forcing anything,” Simmons said.
“Coaches do want me to take more shots and I think that’s one of the things I’ve always looked at. I don’t want to be the selfish guy on my team but if it’s going to help the team get better then I’m willing to do that. The way our team plays is we love to share the ball and make the right plays and I’m always that guy who wants to make the right play.”
For Sixers fans, some have said they’re willing to wait for the Aussie to find his jumper, while others have proven less patient.
Ben Simmons just took one of those grossest mid-range jumpers ever — but I want him to keep taking them.— Dave Loughran (@Loughy_D)
Oh good, turned on the Sixers just in time to see Ben Simmons’ bad jumper— John Barchard (@JohnBarchard)
The Eagles make the playoffs and Simmons finding a jump shot in the same week is gonna give me anxiety. https://t.co/7HGlnYvJiU— ☃️ Ian Riccaboni ☃️ (@IanRiccaboni)
CJ McCollum was the standout for the Trail Blazers tonight, scoring 35 points to break out of a brief shooting slump.
McCollum made four three-pointers and hit 13 of 18 from the floor to lead Portland.
In his six previous games, McCollum was 35 per cent from the floor while going 16 per cent from three-point range.
Embiid’s absence was felt inside, as the Blazers out rebounded the 76ers 59-36.
Early on, it appeared as though Philadelphia might get by without Embiid.
The 76ers hit their first four shots and led 13-7 but nothing went right the rest of the first half for Philadelphia, however, as Portland quickly erased the deficit and ran away from the 76ers. Sixers coach Brett Brown said Embiid was held out of Sunday’s game as a precaution.
“It’s not anything we’re concerned about,” Brown said.
AROUND THE GROUNDS
TIMBERWOLVES 113 — HEAT 104
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 34 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, leading six Minnesota players in double figures as the Timberwolves defeated the Miami Heat 113-104 on Sunday night.
Towns added seven assists and six blocked shots for the Timberwolves. The only other player in NBA history to have that many points, rebounds, assists and blocks in the same game was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, for the Los Angeles Lakers against Phoenix on Nov. 14, 1975. Abdul-Jabbar had 35 points, 19 rebounds, nine assists and eight blocks in that game.
Dwyane Wade led Miami with 21 points.
RAPTORS 95 — BULLS 89
Kawhi Leonard scored 27 points as Toronto recorded its seventh straight win over Chicago.
Danny Green and Fred VanVleet each scored 10 points as the Raptors bounced back from their largest defeat of the season, a 29-point loss at Orlando on Friday.
Lauri Markkanen had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who didn’t score for the first 3:19 of the fourth quarter as Chicago fell to 5-8 under coach Jim Boylen.
MAGIC 109 — PISTONS 107
Evan Fournier’s running jumper in the lane as the buzzer sounded gave Orlando a win over Detroit.
DJ Augustin led the Magic with 26 points and eight assists while Luke Kennard scored 16 points to lead the Pistons.
Fournier’s winning basket ended a wild finish in which Detroit wiped out an eight-point deficit in the final three minutes only to lose for the 11th time in their last 14 games.
LAKERS 121 — KINGS 114
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored a season-high 26 points, Josh Hart added 22 and Los Angeles won for the first time since LeBron James was sidelined with a groin injury.
The Kings led 110-103 with 4:30 remaining when the Lakers scored 12 straight points over a three-minute span. De’Aaron Fox led Sacramento with 26 points.
MAVERICKS 105 — THUNDER 103
Teenage rookie Luka Doncic scored 25 points and young back-court mate Dennis Smith Jr. hit the go-ahead lay up in the final minute for Dallas.
Paul George scored the last 13 points for Oklahoma City and finished with 36, but he missed a pull-up jumper over Smith with two seconds left in the first of two straight meetings on back-to-back nights for these regional rivals.