NBA playoffs 2019: Ben Simmons ‘exceptional’ as Sixers take series lead against Nets

Ben Simmons (right) celebrates

Ben Simmons scored a playoff career-high to help the 76ers defeat the Nets and earned effusive praise from coach Brett Brown.

Ben Simmons’ “exceptional” display in the absence of Joel Embiid thrilled 76ers coach Brett Brown as his team took a 2-1 series lead in their playoff series with the Nets.

The Sixers were without Embiid because of a knee injury, but Simmons — Rookie of the Year last season — shouldered the extra burden brilliantly in a 131-115 win at Barclays Center.

Simmons — who was jeered by Philly fans in a Game 1 loss — posted a playoff career-high with 31 points as he hit 11 of 13 from the field, while also registering nine assists, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

He made nine of 11 free throws, having only converted 60 percent in the regular season, demonstrating great composure to put the Sixers in position to take command of the series with another road victory Saturday.

“Ben was exceptional,” Brown said. “They started trying to foul him. I think at that point he had not missed a free throw, and he did miss the two after they intentionally fouled him, but then he made another two to follow up.

“And so, whether you look at his confidence, his body language walking to the line or with just organic play, I give Ben a tremendous amount of credit. We needed it all tonight, especially without Joel.

“I think we forget he’s 22 years old, and we start talking about the growth in his jump shot and all this stuff.

“Everybody talks about it, and then you see him come out and make the free throws, and whether he’s getting booed or there’s something else going on as it relates to some level of scrutinizing Ben, he’s incredibly confident within himself.

“He has put in a tremendous amount of work apart from being just pretty darn good to earn that privilege.

“I’m just so happy for him to play like he played tonight. Especially when you zoom in to the free throw line, to make free throws in the NBA playoffs, and have, what, 31 points and shoot the percentage that he did? I think he feeds off that, but it’s not like he’s out beating his chest over it. I think internally he’s got tremendous inner confidence.”

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