A “frustrated” Ben Simmons has had another nightmare game, committing fatal turnovers in an overtime thriller loss to the Boston Celtics that put his Philadelphia 76ers on the brink of elimination from the NBA Playoffs.
The Celtics won 101-98 on Saturday in Philadelphia to take a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semi-final series. The 76ers’ season will be over if they lose one more game.
“We’re very frustrated, but at the same time we have to look at the next game,” a sombre Simmons said in the locker room.
Game four is in Philadelphia on Monday.
Boston’s Australian big man Aron Baynes had a huge game, going chest-to-chest with the 76ers’ All-Star centre Joel Embiid.
Simmons, who had the worst game of his career in his last outing against the Celtics when he scored just one point, was more aggressive, but his four turnovers helped sink the 76ers.
The 21-year-old Australian rookie finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists but he was not happy despite the near triple-double placing him in the NBA record books.
It was Simmons’ seventh post-season game with at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists – the most by a rookie in a single post-season since Magic Johnson had 10 in 1980.
“I have a lot of growing to do,” Simmons said. “This is the first season I have played, the first I have played in the playoffs and I’m learning a lot.”
Simmons’ shaky moments included missing an open dunk when the score was locked 81-81 with five minutes to go. In the final seconds of regulation, with the score 87-87, Simmons and team-mate JJ Redick had a miscommunication that led to a Celtics lay up.
The 76ers Marco Belinelli hit a corner two-pointer to send the game into overtime, although the stadium’s operations staff thought it was a game-winning three-pointer and set off confetti falling from the ceiling.
It delayed overtime by 10 minutes while the floor was cleaned up.
With 19 seconds left in overtime and the 76ers up 98-97 Simmons grabbed an offensive rebound and instead of taking time off the clock he quickly launched a shot that missed and gave the ball back to the Celtics.
“I had a wide open shot that I make a lot of the time and I missed it,” said Simmons, defending his decision.
In the key play with 3.9 seconds left in overtime and the Celtics up 99-98 Simmons passed the ball to Embiid and it was intercepted by the Celtics’ Al Horford to seal the win. Baynes had seven points and 10 rebounds while Embiid had 22 points and 19 rebounds.
History is against the 76ers with no NBA team coming back from a 0-3 deficit in the best-of-seven format.