PHILADELPHIA – During pregame on Thursday, Sixers point guard Ben Simmons was spotted having a conversation with legend Julius Erving. What was said conversation about?
“Can’t tell you what he said,” Simmons told gathered media from the podium following Game 6 against the Raptors.
Whatever the gist and whether or not it helped — “it could’ve,” Simmons cryptically said — it certainly didn’t hurt as Simmons delivered the most important performance of his nascent postseason career. The Sixers staved off elimination with a 112-101 victory that wasn’t quite as close as the final score indicated and forced a Game 7 in Toronto. The chorus clamoring for Simmons, who had 33 points combined in Games 2 through 5 against the Raptors, to play with the aggression he put on display during the first round against Brooklyn was finally satiated.
It was clear the Sixers needed their All-Star point guard to deliver in an elimination game, and he answered the call from the opening tip. Simmons scored just 1:47 into the game, and jumpstarted a 10-0 run with a dunk and three straight assists to put Philly up 23-15 late in the first. The 22-year-old had been pressing at times against an at-times stingy Raptors defense, and was exerting a ton of energy trying to stop superstar Kawhi Leonard on the other end, a tall task for anyone.
“Sometimes I get so focused on defending Kawhi and keeping him in front that I sometimes slow down on offense and I lose a little bit of focus or intensity there,” Simmons said prior to Game 6, in a report from Turner’s Rosalyn Gold-Onwude.