Simmons fires up in massive Sixers win over Toronto
A hungry Ben Simmons has helped Philadelphia to an emphatic 112-101 win over Toronto to set-up a blockbuster Game 7.
The Aussie star's aggressive first quarter explosion set the tone for the Sixers' transformation after he hit the ground running with eight points and five assists in the first quarter.
He finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, six assists and no turnovers, including a devastating nine-point third quarter which shut the door on the Raptors with a full quarter to play.
Coach Brett Brown said after the game Simmons was the team's bell-ringer as the team's best player, despite some freakish efforts from Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler.
"For Ben to be our bell-ringer with some of those other performances sort of confirms what I think he did tonight," Brown said.
"His no turnovers, his attack mode, I think he had four offensive rebounds, his push and pace on missed shots especially, all those things were what made him be an NBA All Star at 22-years-old. And I thought he was excellent tonight and we needed it all."
With their season on the brink down 3-2 in the eastern conference semi-finals series, Simmons came out steaming.
The Aussie had come under fire for his timid failure to make an impact in the Sixers' 36-point thumping in Game 5, but he returned to Philadelphia a different man.
Simmons had six assists in just 14 minutes on the floor as Philadelphia shot out to an extraordinary 17 point lead early in the second quarter
Brown singled out the criticism Simmons received following the Game 5 loss, declaring it's "just not fair" for the star guard to come under fire as he has at such a young age.
"He's 22-years-old," Brown said.
"His game, as he grows his shot and tries to get a better command of his position, and deals with the stage of the NBA Playoffs, shame on us for thinking like he's going to be all day, every day, here he is and he's gonna just knock it out the park.
"It's just not fair."
The Sixers blew the Raptors off the court in the first three quarters before they were able to give their bench some minutes on the floor.
The result sends the series back to Toronto for Game 7 on Monday morning (AEST).
According to ESPN, the Sixers franchise hasn't won the seventh game of a series going back to 1955. The franchise will have to overcome a streak of 14 consecutive losses in series deciders if they are to move through to face the Milwaukee Bucks in the eastern conference finals.
Brett Brown, a takesman, reminding you Ben Simmons is a 22 year old all star and you should shut up pic.twitter.com/4TctObLJQZ— Andrew Porter (@And_Porter) 10 May 2019
The team's dramatic turnaround in Game 6 suggests the historic streak can be snapped.
Simmons was clearly the catalyst for the Sixers' emphatic response.
He was not only firing dimes for his teammates. He attacked the basket exactly as teammate Butler publicly asked him to do following their loss in Toronto.
Simmons left jaws dropping with some of his attacks on the rim.
"He's unstoppable when he gets up a head of steam," ESPN's Doris Burke said.
"From end to end, he's as fast as anyone in the league."
Simmons' energy on offence was crucial as superstar centre Embiid bizarrely failed to score in the first quarter, despite his defence shutting down the Raptors at the other end of the court.
Embiid had a relatively quiet game with 17 points, but the Sixers had an extraordinary +40 while he was on the court for 35 minutes.
Despite Embiid's impressive performance, Simmons stole the majority of the headlines.
Simmons said after the game the "sky's the limit" for his team if they can turn up in Toronto with the same attitude.
Jimmy Butler led the Sixers in scoring and finished with 25 points after a monster 19-point first half.
Butler's 11-point second quarter stretched Philly's lead back out to 58-43 at half time after Toronto had cut it back just seven points mid-way through the second quarter.
Simmons and Embiid then stepped up big-time in the third quarter to extend the home team's lead to 87-67 after a dominant quarter.
Embiid, Simmons, Butler and Harris all score more than 15 points while Toronto only had Kawhi Leonard (29 points) and Paskal Siakam (21) make an impact on the offensive end.
The dramatic Sixers turnaround came after NBA legend Charles Barkley said the point guard had been "stinking" it up against the Raptors this series.
Barkley savaged Simmons and 76ers teammates Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick after Tuesday's 125-89 game five loss, accusing them of "stinking up the joint" and not stepping up for centre Joel Embiid while he struggles with illnesses and knee issues.
"Especially Ben Simmons," Barkley, who began his Hall of Fame career with the 76ers, said on ESPN on Wednesday.
"He has to play better, man.
"He has to play a lot better."
Simmons certainly appears to have got the message.