PHOENIX – Ben Simmons took a step Tuesday night that could lead to him one day becoming an unguardable player.
The 76ers point guard attempted two jumpers in the first quarter of the 119-113 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Centers. He didn’t make those shots. But the Sixers had to be delighted to see the 2017-18 rookie of the year step out of his comfort zone.
Simmons has been very reluctant to attempt shots from that range and beyond. In fact, he had zero three-point attempts this season heading into Wednesday’s game against the Suns in Phoenix, and that didn’t change after the Sixers' 132-127 win.
But on a night when he sealed the victory with a dunk and block in the game’s last two possessions, it was his two jumpers that stood out the most.
He missed a 12-foot turnaround jumper with 6 minutes, 41 seconds left in the opening quarter. He later misfired on a 16-foot, pull-up jumper early in the shot clock at the 6:13 mark.
“I have faith we are going to see Ben Simmons incrementally embrace shooting in general,” coach Brett Brown said. “You are going to see his shot first be shot with more frequency/confidence overtime.”
The coach pointed out that Simmons is only 22 years old. The Australian has also dominated every other level without having to shoot jumpers.
“I’ve said many times, we are not going to get where we want to go unless he does,” Brown said.
Simmons finished the game with 14 points on 6-for-13 shooting. He also had nine rebounds, and eight assists to go with a block. He, however, made just 2-of-6 foul shots.
With the Sixers up, 117-113, and with 15 seconds remaining in the game, Simmons was handed the ball from an official on an inbounds play. Clippers guard Sindarius Thornwell made a mistake by turning his back to the Sixer. Simmons bounced the ball off Thurmond’s back and went in to score on a wide-open dunk a second later.
Then he swatted away Lou Williams’ three-pointer on the ensuing possession as the Sixers escaped with a much-needed victory.