Ben Simmons was largely anonymous on Monday (AEST), before tipping in the game-winner in overtime as the Philadelphia 76ers squeezed past San Antonio.
The Australian followed up a Joel Embiid missed jump-shot as time expired; his put-back proving the difference maker as the Sixers (43-21) secured a hard-fought 113-111 win on the road.
It was only Simmons’ second made field goal in a game he was MIA on the offensive end for nearly 35 minutes. The 24-year-old finished with just five points, five assists, and six rebounds on the first night of a back-to-back that continues in Chicago on Tuesday.
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Monstrous defensively again, Simmons earned two charges in overtime as an understrength Spurs outfit just fell short of a massive scalp.
“I want to get out of here and head to Chicago,” Simmons said post-game. “So, I was doing everything I could.”
Joel Embiid topscored for the Sixers with 34 points to go with 12 rebounds, while Seth Curry was perfect from deep for his 22 points.
Simmons and Tobias Harris (3-10 FG for six points) combined for just 11 points on a worrying night, offensively, for the East’s No. 1 seed.
“Our guys know that they didn’t play right and they got away with one,” Doc Rivers said after the game. “I think it was more of a relief tonight than a celebration.”
On the two charges Simmons drew late, Rivers said: “I thought those two charges were the biggest plays in the game.”
After losing four straight without Simmons, the Sixers have gone 4-0 since their point guard returned from illness.
Against the Spurs (31-32), though, his absence of impact on the offensive end was clear to see.
“We looked a little tired,” Simmons said of the Sixers’ performance.
“I don’t know what it was with us. But they kept fighting; a lot of respect to them. They were shorthanded, obviously, but they kept fighting and didn’t give up.”
Lonnie Walker IV topscored for the Spurs with 23 points off the bench, while Keldon Johnson added 19. Patty Mills struggled from the field, going 2-for-10 for six points.
BUCKS DOWN BROOKLYN
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a season-high 49 points in his return from an injury as the Milwaukee Bucks overcame Kevin Durant’s 42-point performance to beat the Brooklyn Nets 117-114.
Two-time reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo, who had been dealing with a sprained right ankle, outdueled Durant in the Eastern Conference clash between the two highest-scoring teams in the league.
Antetokounmpo finished just three points short of his career high, which he set two years ago against Philadelphia. The Bucks superstar praised his teammates for the win, saying they had to tighten up defensively against the high-scoring Nets.
“We just trust one another and kept playing hard and moving the ball,” said Antetokounmpo, who showed no signs of the ankle injury.
“They have great players so we had to lock in, trust one another on defence and execute on offence.”
Antetokounmpo shot 21-of-36 from the floor and added eight rebounds while teammate Khris Middleton finished with a double-double of 26 points and 11 rebounds.
Durant scored 42 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets, who are trying to hang onto first place during the final stretch of the regular season.
Antetokounmpo said he didn’t want to get into a scoring duel with Durant and just tried to focus on the strengths in his game.
“KD is one of the greatest scorers ever to play the game,” Antetokounmpo said. “If you try to go back and forth with him, he’s going to score 70. I was able to slow down and get to my spots. I kept being aggressive.”
The two teams play again later this week in Milwaukee in a rivalry many see was a playoff preview.
Kyrie Irving scored 20 points and Landry Shamet tallied 17 for the Nets, who have won four of their past six games.
BROOKLYN NETS 114 — 117 MILWAUKEE BUCKS
NEW YORK KNICKS 122 — 97 HOUSTON ROCKETS
PHOENIX SUNS 123 — 120 OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
MIAMI HEAT 121 — 111 CHARLOTTE HORNETS
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS 129 — 119 BOSTON CELTICS
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 113 — 111 SAN ANTONIO SPURS (OT)
SACRAMENTO KINGS 111 — 99 DALLAS MAVERICKS
TORONTO RAPTORS — LOS ANGELES LAKERS