NBA analyst Charles Barkley says Ben Simmons has reached a turning point in his season and it is now his time to shine for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Simmons tied his career-high with 34 points and finished with a triple-double to carry the Sixers to a 117-111 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Martin Luther King Jr Day.
Speaking on Inside The NBA in the aftermath of Philadelphia’s win, Barkley – who spent his first eight seasons with the 76ers – praised Simmons’ play since his team-mate and fellow All-Star Joel Embiid went down with a torn ligament in his left hand.
“The Sixers have not had a leader. They just play the game strictly on talent. They don’t have an identity,” said Barkley.
“This is a time when Ben cannot be passive. We know right now, Joel (Embiid) is out of the equation. Ben has played great since Joel has been out.
“For Ben, this is his time. I thought this was a turning point for his season. Now I can’t wait for Joel to come back and see how they put it together.”
Simmons tied his career-high 34 points as he posted a triple-double in Philadelphia’s MLK Day win over Brooklyn
Before facing the Nets, Simmons learned he had been chosen as the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played between January 13-19. Simmons averaged 21.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists last week as the 76ers went 3-1.
Then he got a sensational start on winning the next week’s award, too, racking up 34 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.
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“I mean, Ben Simmons was ridiculously dominant tonight,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said.
A point guard by skill but, at 6ft 10in, a big man in size, Simmons played all over the floor for a 76ers team missing Embiid. The Nets tried guarding him with big men but that didn’t work.
“I just came in with that mindset to win,” Simmons said. “I know it is going to be tough every time we play teams like this.”
Simmons shot 12 for 14 from the field in his career-best fifth straight game with 20 or more points, finishing with his fourth triple-double of the season. The NBA leader in steals had five of them.
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“Just his determination,” Brown said when asked what impressed him most about Simmons’ performance. “There was a determination, there was a spirit, there was a committed performance offensively and defensively that he just was not going to let the team lose.”
Al Horford added 19 points for the 76ers, who won their fourth consecutive game. Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson each scored 15.
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