The Philadelphia 76ers got embarrassed at home in Game 1 of their first round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, losing 111-102 in a game where they pretty much trailed by double digits the entire way. The home crowd was on them early, booing at various points throughout the game, including when Ben Simmons missed two free throws in the third quarter.
Simmons was not a huge factor. He finished the game with only nine points, but most of those came on open, assisted dunks after the game outcome was largely decided in the fourth quarter. He had three assists to go with three turnovers, and that marks his career low in the postseason. Simmons has been an all-around stat sheet stuffer who does a little bit of everything as a tall point guard, except, well, shoot from outside. But in the postseason, good teams can take things away and expose weaknesses. It happened again.
After the game, Simmons was not feeling the home crowd. Here’s what he had to say:
“If you’re a #Sixers fan and you’re gonna boo, stay on that side” @BenSimmons25 with a message to the Boo Birds after the @sixers we’re embarrassed in Game 1 of the #NBAPlayoffs @6abc pic.twitter.com/hD3vF3Llq5
— Jamie Apody (@JamieApody) April 13, 2019
Jimmy Butler, described by head coach Brett Brown during the broadcast as “the adult in the room,” was the only member of the 76ers who really showed up, as his 36 points easily led the team (only Joel Embiid and Boban Marjanovic were also in double digit scoring).
Philadelphia already came into the playoffs with some uncertainty thanks to Embiid’s injury status. He ended up playing in Game 1, going 24 minutes, but he was clearly not at 100 percent and had to take some frequent breaks, even once caught checking messages on a phone.
Simmons, meanwhile, is going to be a lightning rod after these fan comments after a game where he finished with a team-worst -21 in plus/minus (along with J.J. Redick). That continues a troubling trend from last postseason. In last year’s Celtics series, Simmons was -63 in a five-game series where the Celtics only outscored the 76ers by 15 total points.
Philadelphia finished the game by shooting only three of 25 from three-point range. If you are going to draw up how the Nets are going to win this series, it will be by Philadelphia struggling from distance and failing to play team defense with determination, and the fans turning against them. The Brooklyn Nets are in many ways the anti-76ers. They don’t have a bunch of home grown top picks thanks to undertaking a process, and they did not add an All-NBA player in Jimmy Butler. They have a bunch of guys who other teams gave up on, and yet everyone contributed and the their bench in Game 1 scored a whopping 59 points.
Suddenly, Game 2 looms very large already as a referendum on this group of players in Philadelphia, and on whether Simmons has the personality to excel in the postseason. With Embiid limited, Simmons really needs to show up so Jimmy Butler does not have to do it all.