Sixers’ Simmons, Butler, Embiid dominate, blow out Raptors to force Game 7

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Ben Simmons played in Game 5 on Tuesday, there is proof right in the box score. Yet if you watched the game he was hardly noticeable. Not coincidently Philadelphia got blown out on the road.

In the first minutes of Game 6, you could not miss Ben Simmons — he was aggressive, attacking downhill, imposing himself on the game. Philadelphia’s defensive energy had Toronto missing shots, and that gave Simmons a chance to get out in transition, where he is at his best. Simmons was 4-of-5 shooting with 5 assists in the first quarter alone.

That set the tone.

“[Simmons] was our bell-ringer tonight,” Sixers coach Brett Brown of his star, who finished with 21 points.

Jimmy Butler was the best player on the floor, scored 25 on the night, had eight assists, and played with the kind of grit and determination that endears him to Sixers faithful. “He was all over that game,” Brown said.

Joel Embiid was +40 in 36 minutes (and the Sixers were -29 in the 12 minutes he sat)— just his presence on the court changes things for the Sixers on both ends.

Philadelphia blew out Toronto in Game 6, 112-101 (a score that was not indicative of the 20+ point Sixers lead for much of the game) to even the series 3-3.

The winner-take-all Game 7 is Sunday in Toronto, 7 p.m. Eastern (up against the penultimate Game of Thrones episode, both may see some blood spilled).

It’s a game with more than just a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals against Milwaukee on the line — free agent decisions by stars such as Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and more could be impacted by the outcome.

Which Philadelphia team will show up for that game?

Throughout this series — and even going back to Game 1 of the Brooklyn series — this team has been up-and-down. Part of that has risen and fell with Joel Embiid’s health, but Simmons effectiveness, and how well the role players have performed, has been a roller coaster as well.

Often that is tied to pace — when the Sixers get to run then Simmons gets going and other things open up. Make the Sixers take the ball out of the basket each time and the dynamic changes.

“We just missed so many shots early and they were just playing off the rebounds so often,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “They were getting the rebound and pushing out on us so often, and we were not doing a great job in transition.”

If the Sixers team that showed up Thursday night appears on Sunday Philadelphia has a good chance of advancing.

As it has every game, Toronto got a good night from Kawhi Leonard, 29 points on 9-of-20 shooting, however, this was not one of his elite nights. Pascal Siakam added 21 points and played well.

That’s about it. Every other Raptor shot a combined 40 percent and had little impact on the game Kyle Lowry was 5-of-11 for 13 points, Danny Green was 2-of-8 from three, Serge Ibaka was 3-of-10, Marc Gasol 3-of-8.

Toronto’s role players have been much better at home and they need to continue that trend Sunday.

One other thing to watch: Late in the game, Embiid picked up a flagrant foul when a push of Marc Gasol (in an attempt to establish rebounding position) resulted in a hand flying up and catching the Raptor big man in the face. Inadvertent or not the NBA has handed out Flagrants for those kinds of plays all season. That gives Embiid three flagrants these playoffs, one more and he gets a one-game suspension (if his next one is a Flagrant 2 he sits two games).

Jaylen Brown: Celtics nicknamed Grant Williams ‘Ben Simmons’ due to missed 3s

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Celtics rookie Grant Williams on 3-pointers in his first 20 games: 0-for-25.

0-for-25!

Nobody else has ever started a season that cold.

Of everyone else to attempt at least 25 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody made fewer than two. Of everyone else to miss all their 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody attempted more than 17.

Finally, Williams made a 3-pointer in Boston’s win over the Cavaliers yesterday.

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, via NBC Sports Boston:

We were calling him Ben Simmons for the longest. But he knocked one down, and knocked them down, too. So, shoutout to both of those guys.

Yes, 76ers guard Ben Simmons barely shoots, let alone makes, 3-pointers. But it seems as if Brown realized mid-answer he shouldn’t provide bulletin-board material to a rival.

Too late.

Simmons has gotten called a coward numerous times by people in Boston due to his refusal to shoot 3s. Becoming the butt of the joke with fellow NBA players? That’s something else entirely.

We’ll see how Simmons responds, but many around him – including Philadelphia coach Brett Brown – have been urging him to hoist more 3s. It’s hard to see this inspiring Simmons to actually change his game.

Paul George says there’s more to his Pacers exit: ‘I promise you, I’m not the one to boo’

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In 2017, Paul George told the Pacers he planned to leave in free agency the following year. It wasn’t a trade request, but George knew his message would likely prompt Indiana to deal him. He wanted out.

George said he preferred the Spurs. (Or was it the Lakers?) The Pacers dealt him to the Thunder.

Now with the Clippers, George returned to Indiana and got booed.

George, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

“You know, someday I’ll do a tell-all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana,” George said. “And I promise you, I’m not the one to boo.”

“… I’m not gonna share the teaser,” George later added. “… I like being the villain. I’m here two nights out of the year. The people they should boo is here a lot longer than I am.”

Maybe George felt he got wronged. Maybe George actually got wronged.

But fans generally side with their favorite team over a star player who chose to leave.

It’s hard to imagine a set of circumstances where Pacers fans would boo someone other than George for his exit. My hunch: His grievances are significant to him but wouldn’t persuade Indiana fans. Still, I’m at least curious about his full story.

LeBron James on 2011 NBA Finals: ‘I lost my love for the game’

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LeBron James became a villain by leaving the Cavaliers for the Heat on The Decision in 2010. He arrived in Miami promising “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” championships.

By the end of his first season with the Heat, he was beaten down. The Mavericks topped Miami in the NBA Finals, winning the last three games of the series. While Miami blew its 2-1 lead, LeBron averaged 15.3 points and 4.7 turnovers per game. He shot 2-for-12 on 3-pointers and 4-for-10 on free throws.

After Game 6, he callously mocked his critics:

“All the people that were rooting for me to fail… at the end of the day, tomorrow they have to wake up and have the same life that (they had) before they woke up today,” James said. “They got the same personal problems they had today. And I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things I want to do.”

ESPN:

LeBron emerged from his funk and led the Heat to consecutive titles. He returned to Cleveland and won another title there. He’s now with the Lakers leading another championship pursuit.

He plays well. He plays smartly. He plays with joy. He often rises to the biggest occasions.

LeBron probably had to go through a setback like the 2011 Finals to sharpen his mental edge. But it’s incredible how far he has come from the defeated player who left that series against Dallas.

Tristan Thompson on Cavaliers anonymously griping about John Beilein: ‘Y’all better find them names ‘cause I’ll pull up on ‘em right now’

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The Athletic – quoting at least three unnamed players – reported the Cavaliers are rebelling against John Beilein’s collegiate coaching style.

Cleveland big Tristan Thompson, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

“Y’all better find them names ‘cause I’ll pull up on ‘em right now,” Thompson said. “You can’t do that s—.

“At the end of the day if you’re going to build a culture and a family, you can’t have that Chatty Patty s— going on. That s— is whack to me. Everyone’s got to look in the mirror, there’s only so much coach can do and there’s only so much we can do. Do we have the best roster in the NBA? No. But we’re going to go out there and compete every night. Guys got to look in the mirror. So I hope whoever reported that was just bulls——g and blamed it on a player.”

That’s quite the rhetoric from Thompson. I wonder whether he has the same energy in the locker room.

Thompson confronting his teammates would certainly raise the stakes. And make no mistake: His teammates are among the unnamed sources. The report not only specifically cited players, it said “Veterans and younger players, from all corners of the roster” are having issues with Beilein.

Even if he supports his coach, that’s a lot for Thompson to take on.

But if he’s looking for a place to start, I have a guess.