The Philadelphia 76ers entered Game 3 shorthanded against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night. Prior to tipoff, it was announced that the Sixers ruled out center Joel Embiid due to a knee injury, putting Philadelphia at a supposed disadvantage.
While an injury is a bad thing for any athlete, forward Ben Simmons used his teammate's absence as extra motivation, as he led the 76ers to a 131-115 win over the Nets.
Simmons scored 31 points, dished out nine assists, and hauled in four rebounds through 38 minutes of game action. That is a far cry from Game 1, in which Simmons struggled mightily, scoring nine points in 32 minutes.
A playoff career high for Ben Simmons. He heard the chatter. pic.twitter.com/vbd4XOiJ4e— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 19, 2019
Simmons opened up the paint, allowing the Sixers to score at will. Philadelphia went on to shoot 48.4-percent from the field in Game 3, and held the lead for the final 3.5 quarters.
Not to mention, that Simmons was much more aggressive in this game. That could have come from the critical comments made by Nets forward Jared Dudley, who said Simmons was "average in the half court."
While he didn't shoot from behind the arc, Simmons used his shot to his advantage, successfully converting 11-of-13 attempts from the field. In the process, Simmons stuck it to Dudley, who was rather quiet on Thursday night (0 points, 0-for-2 from the field).
Ben Simmons had fun trolling Jared Dudley after Dudley called him an “average” half-court player pic.twitter.com/SYJdgJLOrP— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 19, 2019
Gone was the conservative Simmons, and entered the leader the Sixers front office and fan base envisioned ever since drafting him first overall in 2016.
While the performance came after Embiid's injury, this is just the momentum that Simmons needs to push the Sixers to their ultimate goal: the NBA Finals.