Simmons inspires 76ers to conference semis

Ben Simmons copped flak for a less than impressive night at the line in yesterday’s loss to the Wizards, but the Aussie NBA superstar flipped the script this morning to inspire the Philadelphia 76ers to the Western Conference semi finals with a 4-1 series win.

In a promising show of commitment, Simmons was spotted on-court hours before tip-off practicing his free throws after the Wizards employed a ‘hack-a-Simmon’ tactic in their Game Four upset.

It appeared to pay off for the Aussie who went 5 of 8 from the free-throw line, but more importantly did what he did best, orchestrating Philly on both ends of the court with his third career playoff triple-double.

Simmons had to do it all without the help of superstar teammate Joel Embiid who is carrying a knee injury, and will hope to be fit for the next round.

Seth Curry scored a playoff career-high 30 points. Tobias Harris added 28 points and teamed with Curry and Simmons to carry the offensive load with Embiid out.

Simmons had 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds to keep the top-seeded 76ers in the hunt for their first championship since 1983.

Embiid is day to day with a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee and he was reduced to Philadelphia’s biggest cheerleader as the Sixers put the misery of last season’s first-round sweep behind them.

Embiid gave a sneak peek that the injury suffered in a Game 4 loss might not keep him out very long. The NBA MVP candidate had the crowd going wild when he hit the court for pregame warmups. He shot jumpers around the perimeter, fadeaways, even some free throws — all without any sort of noticeable knee brace under his white leggings —- and put on a show that proved his absence might not last beyond Game 5.

Coach Doc Rivers, in his first season, said he expected Embiid to return in the postseason.

“I don’t know when or how early,” he said. “I’m hopeful. I think that’s a better way of putting it.”

So Embiid and the Sixers wait for the winner of the Atlanta — New York series.

Sixers fans couldn’t wait, chanting “We want Brooklyn!” as the seconds ticked off in Game 5.

– with AP

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