The Sixers and Spurs were tied at 111 at the end of the first overtime session and Philadelphia prepared a play for Joel Embiid. The big guy made his move and he looked good, but it sank off the edge before Ben Simmons rushed in to tip him home to the buzzer and lead Philadelphia to a 113-111 victory.
The victory put the Sixers back into the No.1 seed in the East as they are now half a game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets and it also helped them avoid a monumental collapse.
“It was more relieved because we knew we played in the position that we played in,” said coach Doc Rivers. “Giving credit to San Antonio, Pop (Gregg Popovich) made these guys play strong, moving the ball, attacking, but our guys know they didn’t play well and they got away with one. I think it was more of a relief tonight than a celebration.
It’s definitely a feeling of relief. Having climbed 17 points against a team missing three starters and a key piece from the bench, it should have been an easy win for a team like the Sixers. Instead, they had to fight and claw just to get a victory.
Embiid himself had a good look, but luckily Simmons was there in this case on a dud.
“I knew Jo was going to get a good look,” Simmons said. “We trust him with these shots, so I was just there to clean it up.”
After the tip-in, Simmons’ final stat line will show five points, five assists and six rebounds, but his impact was more than that. He drew two huge charges from Spurs forward Keldon Johnson who kept Philadelphia somewhat in control.
“I thought those two charges were the biggest games of the game,” Rivers said. “Two good games, to get there, one of the things we talked about that we had to improve on is our weak man help. He did, he was phenomenal.
That’s what Philadelphia is talking about with Simmons. His stat line still belies his real impact on the game. The two charges he shot down the straight were huge for the Sixers to come away with the win.
“He made huge plays,” Seth Curry said. “He did a lot of things on the floor, a lot of different things to affect the game, and he made two huge plays for us down the stretch. Then, of course, play a game that wasn’t for him and keep sticking to it. It was good to get out of there instead of doing another extra time.
It was important to end it when they did. Philadelphia has another Monday against the Chicago Bulls.
“I just wanted to get on the plane to Chicago,” smiles Simmons. “I did what I could wherever I could with my team defensively and offensively. I’m just trying to make the right games.
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