Boston's mind games messed with Ben Simmons

Monday, May 7, 2018

Ben Simmons is about to face the biggest test of his young, prolific and record-breaking career. Will he rise or fall?

Critics of the young Australian have the knives out and the blades will be the sharpest in his adopted home city of Philadelphia if the 76ers are swept out of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics on Monday (Tuesday AEST).

Philly's fervid fans fell in love with the 21-year-old during the regular season as he clocked up comparisons with Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson and in the first-round playoffs when he led the 76ers to a series win over the Miami Heat.

The sentiment is turning in a city that just watched the Philadelphia Eagles win the NFL's Super Bowl and Villanova University claim the NCAA men's basketball championship.

"Ben Simmons' recklessness and overconfidence cost the Sixers in Game 3," the headline in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer blared.

After three successive losses to the Boston Celtics and the 76ers' being on the brink of elimination, Simmons is now being ripped for ... rookie mistakes.

Simmons has been so good in his first year in the NBA he is judged as if he was a veteran All-Star, not a rookie.

In Thursday's game-two loss in Boston he went AWOL and had just one point. Early in Saturday's game three overtime loss in Philadelphia Simmons was playing well, but with the game and the 76ers' season on the line, he made late blunders that cost his team the victory.

The mastermind of Boston's impressive 3-0 series lead is the Celtics' 41-year-old head coach Brad Stevens.

Stevens' tough crew of underrated Celtics players, including Australian centre Aron Baynes, have perfectly followed Stevens' game plan.

They exposed the few weaknesses Simmons has been able to hide with his 208cm tall frame and freakish athleticism.

Simmons is a pass first player who, if given space to shoot outside the key, does not have the confidence to take the open shot.

His passing is so good he will find open players through the smallest gaps.

Simmons is so fast, if there is a route to the basket he will cut through defences for a dunk or layup.

Boston have shut down Simmons' passing opportunities and pathways to the basket, dared him to shoot and he has remained reluctant to.

Stevens and his team of brutes have infiltrated Simmons' mind.

It was on display when, in game three, Simmons saw a free lane to the basket, went up for a massive uncontested dunk and missed.

The Inquirer compared Simmons to Icarus, the cocky son in Greek mythology who flew too close to the sun despite his father's warnings.

He rarely opens up to the press and tends to offer cliches in short answers that appear aimed to end interviews as quickly as possible.

If Simmons loses the Rookie of the Year Award to the Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell next month it could be the Australian's cool demeanour with the press that costs him as much as the controversy about his 2016/17 season off with injury.

Simmons, interestingly, showed some vulnerability in his post-game interview after Saturday's game three loss.

"I have a lot of growing to do," Simmons said.

Game 4 will provide great insight into who Simmons is, and the type of player we can expect in the future.

The Australian will have his home crowd behind him and will be alongside team-mates desperate to survive.

Boston will again try to rock his confidence. How will Simmons react?

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