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Five Figures: Ben Simmons puts it all out for display

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NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

22 turnovers

The Sixers forced 22 turnovers against the Brooklyn Nets. Per Cleaning The Glass, the Nets wasted about a fifth of their posessions (21.2% TOV%). Ben Simmons (5 steals) and Matisse Thybulle (4 steals) took the ball away from the Nets seemingly whenever they felt like it.

Of the 10 Nets players that saw action, only three did not have multiple turnovers, and Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie had 5 turnovers apiece. Most impactfully, the Sixers forced 10 turnovers in the 4th quarter alone. TEN. T. E. N. (For reference, TOV per game for all teams this season are on a spectrum from about 13 to about 17.) The Nets finished with a 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

14 free throws

By now, you’ve probably heard that Ben Simmons had an astounding performance against the Nets on MLK Day. Over the course of his 34-point triple-double outing, he put on display so much of the skillset we’ve been begging him to utilize. Ben was ferocious defensively and active as an off-ball screener and roller, two areas that really stood out. But one of the most encouraging aspects of Ben’s performance was his ability and willingness to get to the line. Simmons totaled 14 free throws, sinking 10. I think we’d all happily live with ~70% from the line if he’s going to get there 14 times.

42 minutes, 20 seconds

Ben Simmons played nearly the entire game Monday afternoon, logging 42 minutes and 20 seconds against the Brooklyn Nets. First of all, the Sixers needed every second of it. But perhaps a bigger factor in Simmons’ extended run is that he played a few minutes at the five, while bigs Al Horford, Kyle O’Quinn, and Jonah Bolden combined for just 38 minutes (for Al, his 25 minutes were his 2nd lowest total in a game this season excluding blowouts).

The Nets are a team that despite playing “centers”, really play more of a small-ball style game. Countering that with Ben at the five makes sense, and indeed a few of Ben’s games in which he’s received excess playing time (40+ minutes) were against opponents who play smaller. Brooklyn, twice including yesterday. Miami, twice. Houston. Toronto (non-Gasol minutes).

Of note, over his last 5 games, Simmons is averaging 40.1 minutes per game. He has played over 40 minutes in a game nine times this season. What’s incredible is that he seems to be increasing his intensity as the season progresses.

1.034 points per play

The Sixers found success in the halfcourt against the Nets, scoring 1.034 points per play in halfcourt possessions according to Cleaning The Glass — that ranks in the 78th percentile of team single game performances this season. Compare that number with the Sixers’ season rate in the halfcourt: .951 points per play (and that’s about league average, by the way). In addition to productive halfcourt sets, the Sixers also limited their halfcourt possessions — just 73.1% of all of their possessions were against a set defense, per CTG — in favor of getting out in transition. For a team like the Sixers, who employ an open floor maestro like Ben Simmons and are currently without an isolation scorer in Joel Embiid, the combination of limiting halfcourt possessions while still making the most of them is ideal.

+28 minutes

Matisse Thybulle (32 minutes) played 28 minutes more than James Ennis III (4 minutes) against the Nets. Over the Sixers’ last six games, Matisse Thybulle has played in each while averaging 28.8 minutes. Ennis has appeared in five of those games, receiving a DNP against the Indiana Pacers, averaging 10.9 minutes. Before his late-December injury, Thybulle averaged 17.6 minutes per game. Prior to the previous six games, Ennis appeared in 38 of 39 games (missing one due to injury) averaging 17.9 minutes. Brett Brown commented on this shift recently, explaining that he wishes to further develop Thybulle.