Ben Simmons has had an off night in game two of the Philadelphia 76ers' NBA playoff series against the Boston Celtics. Picture: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Ben Simmons has had an off night in game two of the Philadelphia 76ers' NBA playoff series against the Boston Celtics. Picture: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Key Simmons factor being overlooked

OPINION

BEN Simmons' off-night was labelled as "unacceptable" and "disgraceful", but the outrage is far too over the top.

In Boston's fabled TD Garden, Simmons was held without a field goal for the first time in his rookie NBA season. His final tally of only one point was the lowest he's recorded in his 88-game career.

The Aussie has continued to struggle against the Celtics' defensive schemes and his averages through six encounters with that team all sit well below his season averages.

At times, Simmons didn't look locked into the contest and during his post-game press conference he admitted he was over-thinking the game.

"I think, mentally, I was thinking too much - overthinking the plays. It wasn't just out there flowing. I didn't play the way I play, which is free," Simmons said.

With the 76ers finding themselves down 2-0, the up-and-coming team needs their young superstar to be switched on when the series returns to Philadelphia.

Simmons admitted he knew what was coming his way, and the big question for the remainder of the series would  be whether or not he could figure out how to beat it.

"Obviously they have a game plan - I know what their game plan is - and I've gotta play my game," he said.

 

A big factor being overlooked after the game, however, is that Simmons is still a rookie and despite his grandiose performances during the season, he is extremely raw in the NBA.

Every player is going to have their off games and while the timing wasn't great, it's prone to happen to the best of them.

"That's the thing. I'm gonna have bad games. It happens," Simmons said.

"It's not the perfect timing, but you head home now. We've got two home games that we need to take care of and handle business. We've got the team to do it, and the coaching staff, so we've just gotta go do it."

The criticism came in thick and fast following the loss with a former superstar of the game, Shaquille O'Neal, putting Simmons in his sights.

"I'm picking on Big Ben today. Big Ben, you've gotta give me more than one point," O'Neal said on Inside the NBA.

"You've gotta give me more than your average ... you need more out of your superstar point guard. One point is not acceptable."

While Simmons would be the first to put his hand up and say his output wasn't where it needed to be, one critical point of what Shaq said stuck out.

Every team wants and needs their superstars to stand tall when the playoffs get under way and when each game begins to mean more.

 

But this isn't the first time a star hasn't shone bright on the big stage - Shaq should know that.

During his playing days the man of many nicknames was as dominant a force as the league had seen, but even he had poor showings.

Shaq's first appearance in the playoffs came in his second season when he had 162 games of experience under his belt (unlike Simmons, who had 81).

As the superstar leader of the Orlando Magic, Shaq wasn't able to get his higher seeded team across the line against the Indiana Pacers.

His line to Simmons of "you've gotta give me more than your average" springs to mind when looking back over that series.

After a season where he averaged incredible numbers of 29 points and 13 rebounds per game, Shaq was held in check during game two and ended with 15 points and 7 rebounds.

Still serviceable numbers, but ones that even Shaq would agree with weren't acceptable when his team needed him the most.

The Celtics didn’t give Simmons an inch of space all game long.
The Celtics didn’t give Simmons an inch of space all game long.

Brett Brown has been praised for leading the 76ers through the dark times and into the bright lights of the playoffs over the past few seasons.

The coach, however, came under fire for inserting Simmons back into the line-up in the final quarter with the game up for grabs.

He defended his decision following the game after opting to take out back-up point TJ McConnell, who finished with eight points and five assists.

"This whole playoff experience is something I want our young guys and start players to learn from and grow," Brown said of his decision to put Simmons back into the game.

"The decision - do you go with TJ, still, or do you come back to Ben Simmons? I'm coming back to Ben Simmons.

"I'm coming back to Ben. He's had a hell of a year. I think he's the rookie of the year."

 

Brown praised the Celtic defenders for their job on Simmons after they again denied him the freedom to get out and run in the open floor.

"With Ben, I give them credit. They do a good job defending him," Brown said.

"There's an element of physicality I feel they have applied to all of us. Tonight, Ben struggled, as we see. I give Boston's defence a lot of credit and respect."

But with the backing of his coach, Simmons will be keen to show the world the one-game outing was just an anomaly on what has been a record-breaking rookie season.

It's going to take a historic comeback for the 76ers to defeat the Celtics, but as we've seen with Simmons all season long, his name belongs in the record books and adding one more to his tally would only seem fitting.

Game 3 is set for Sunday (AEST), and will be played in Philadelphia.


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