Days after being heavily criticised over his poor free throw shooting, Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons hit back in style by closing out the Washington Wizards with a triple-double.
The Australian superstar led the Sixers with an impressive 19 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in their series-clinching 129-112 win over the Wizards.
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The Sixers will now face the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, after they completed a 4-1 series victory over the New York Knicks.
Simmons had come under fire earlier in the week after the Wizards began deliberately sending him to the free throw line during game four, resulting in him going just 5-11 from the stripe and Washington claiming their first win of the series after 76ers star Joel Embiid went out with injury.
The 23-year-old Aussie star flipped the script on Wednesday, shooting 5-8 overall from the charity stripe and hitting three of the four chances he was given when deliberately hacked by the Wizards.
Earlier on Wednesday, it was announced that Embiid would miss Game 5 and is considered day-to-day after an MRI revealed a “small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee.”
The MVP finalist was injured in the first quarter of Game 4 and didn’t return in Philadelphia’s 122-114 loss to Washington.
Embiid’s minutes were down prior to his injury, logging 30 minutes just once in the series.
He averaged 24 points and 6.8 rebounds in four games. The 76ers will play Game 1 against the Hawks on Sunday.
While Simmons copped plenty of criticism over the game four loss, fans were equally impressed with his bounce back effort.
Simmons comes through after 76ers coach's fiery defence
After Simmons was under the spotlight for his poor shooting in game four, Sixers coach Doc Rivers offered an impassioned defence of his star guard.
Some had suggested Simmons' poor shooting would make him such a liability in close games that he would need to be benched - but Rivers made it clear that wouldn't happen.
"You guys keep this Ben Simmons narrative alive, which to me is freaking insane - how good this guy is and all the things he does," Rivers said.
"Ben is not a 40-point guy. That's not what he does.
"He does other things for your team and I just don't understand why that's not sinking in in our city.
“If I’m Ben, I’d get tired of it. Celebrate him and all the things he does well.
“You guys keep the Ben Simmons narrative going, we’re going to keep playing.”
Rivers went small with Embiid sidelined with a meniscus tear as the 76ers defeated the Wizards to eliminate Washington from the playoffs.
Instead of starting veteran center Dwight Howard, Rivers went with a starting five of Seth Curry, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Danny Green and Matisse Thybulle.
Curry scored a playoff career-high 30 points, leading all Sixers.
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