Smirking Simmons brings AFL to NBA
PHILADELPHIA blew a 22-point lead in a 114-103 defeat against Boston as the NBA visited London.
Australia's Ben Simmons finished with 16 points on 8/12 shooting but like most of his teammates was quiet in the second half as the East-leading Celtics (34-10) recovered from a huge early hole to put the 76ers' record back in the negative (19-20).
Jaylen Brown (21 points), Jayson Tatum (16) and Marcus Morris (19) were all exceptional for Boston, while JJ Reddick fired early to lead the Sixers with 22 points.
It said something about Philly's fadeout that the most memorable moment of the final quarter was a textbook hip-and-shoulder Simmons used to floor Morris as the Aussie brought a taste of AFL to the NBA.
Morris was upset about being up-ended and received a technical foul for attempting to confront the Philly point guard, who responded with a bemused smirk.
A host of stars have turned out for the showpiece game at the O2 Arena. Philly made a fine start, forcing Boston coach Brad Stevens to call the first time-out as they jumped out to a 9-2 lead.
JJ Reddick and Simmons were on fire early, combining for the 76ers first 16 points as they maintained a five-point advantage midway through the term.
Australia's Aron Baynes made two early baskets and a pair of free throws to lead Boston with six points as they trailed 21-17 with 3:31 remaining in the first.
Another powerful move by Simmons took his tally to eight points but it was the Reddick show as he hit an off-balance corner three to move to 13 points and put Philly up 28-23 after one.
The 76ers' lead hit double digits early in the second as another Reddick three and nice play by TJ McConnell made it 42-27. Simmons returned and immediately assisted on a Robert Covington three to force another Stevens timeout with the lead at 18 points.
Simmons (12 points, three assists) then showcased his rarely-seen jumpshot, following a 16-foot turnaround with another nice field goal as Philly led 54-37 with 3:03 remaining.
Kyrie Irving woke from his slumber, hitting a three to trim it to 54-40, as Jaylen Brown (12 points) continued to do what he could to keep Boston in the game.
Joel Embiid (2-7 shooting) was battling on the offensive end and a late quarter fade allowed the Celtics to get it back to single digits at halftime as they trailed 57-48.
Sixers coach Brett Brown called timeout just 39 seconds into the third as a Jayson Tatum three cut the lead to six.
An Embiid lay-in and a Reddick three restored order for Philly and Simmons hit another spin move to push it to 64-53. But Irving was still hot and hit a pair of threes to make it 64-61.
After a quiet first half, Tatum couldn't miss, and turnovers started flowing freely from Philly as they gave up what had been a 22-point lead.
A Jaylen Brown three-point play and a Marcus Morris jumper made it 74-68 Boston's way with 4:29 remaining in the third.
Dario Saric stepped up to limit the damage but with Simmons sitting but Al Horford put the finishing touches on a 37-22 quarter with a triple that made it 85-79.
Terry Rozier hit his second triple early in the fourth to push the Celtics out to a nine-point lead. It was well and truly out of hand for Philadelphia at 102-85 when Simmons re-entered the game with 6:59 left in the fourth. It did nothing to slow down the Celtics, who led 110-91 with 3:50 on the clock.