BOSTON — Who will defend 76ers point guard Ben Simmons?
“You expect to see [Semi] Ojeleye and Marcus Smart,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said of the Boston Celtics’ game plan for tonight at TD Garden in Game 1 of Eastern Conference semifinals.
“You can sort of predict what type of athlete is going to be on Ben,” he added. “We understand that. They do a really good job.”
Ojeleye, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound power forward, was inserted in Boston’s starting lineup in the final three games of its playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks. The second-round pick did a solid job as the primary defender on Bucks all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo. He used his girth and physicality to put Antetokounmpo in uncomfortable situations.
“I thought Ojeleye was great,” Brown said.
Smart is a solid defender whose in-your-face tactics could frustrate or intimidate opponents. The shooting guard makes Miami Heat enforcer Justise Winslow look like a preacher giving a sermon.
“Like in the past, we’ve seen [Al] Horford guard Ben most of the game, the start of the game especially,” Brown said.
But tonight he expects to see Ojeleye and Smart on Simmons.
The 21-year-old from Australia is averaging 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 9.0 assists, and 2.5 steals through five postseason games.
Simmons collected 17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists, and four steals in a Game 4 victory during the an opening-round series against Miami. He became the fifth rookie to register a triple-double in a playoff game. Simmons also became the first Sixer since Charles Barkley on April 27, 1991, to record a postseason triple-double.