Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers challenged Ben Simmons at halftime to be more aggressive and the guard did exactly that in the second half of the game versus the Atlanta Hawks. Simmons scored 11 of his 18 points in the third quarter and also had seven assists as the Sixers beat the Hawks in Game 3 127-111 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
"We just thought he passed up too many opportunities -- in the fast break, at the post. And so we told him we were going to come out and feature him on the post," Rivers said of Simmons. "And he was great for us.
It's exactly what we need. With his pace and power, it was great." Hawks guard Trae Young, who has been absolutely phenomenal this playoffs, was guarded by Simmons. "That was definitely the quarter they were able to get their momentum and get separation," said Young, who still scored a game-high 28 points on 9-for-17 shooting and made eight assists.
Simmons did a great job on Young
"It's exhausting when you think about what we're asking Ben to do: follow Trae Young around, follow him around screens and push the ball up the floor with pace," Rivers said.
"That's all we talked about at halftime when one of my coaches reminded me that he was guarding Trae when I was yelling at him about pace. "He said, 'He is guarding Trae, too.' So, it's tough. But he's young, he has endurance, so it's been good for us."
Simmons said: "I was just trying to push the pace, get in the lanes, find my guys and stay aggressive. Get to the rim. I think I did a good job of that, that second half." Simmons finished second in voting for the Defensive Player of the Year.
"Congrats to Rudy. I mean, it is what it is," Simmons said. "I'm not really concerned about individual awards. I want the championship. So that's my goal. Honestly, the goal is never Defensive Player of the Year.
It's just to go out there and do my job and try to be the best defender in the league, regardless of the awards. "But the ultimate goal is a championship. And that's why I got to do my job at a high level."
Embiid also encouraged Simmons to be more aggressive. "I just told him, 'You need to be aggressive and you need to attack, because there's a lot of space. Especially with the way they're guarding me,'" Embiid said. "So I told him to just be aggressive and just go out there and just dominate."