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Thursday September 23rd, 2021 7:33AM

Doc Rivers baffled by continued criticism of Ben Simmons

By The Associated Press
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Doc Rivers can’t fathom criticism of Ben Simmons, especially after the three-time All-Star became just the sixth player in NBA history to have at least 15 rebounds and 15 assists in a playoff game.

“Only in Philadelphia,” Rivers said Tuesday when asked about the critics. “If you guys don’t know the treasure you have by now, then shame on everyone because he’s been fantastic for us. He creates points every single night for us. When Ben was on the floor, we were really good.

“I’m amazed that people don’t see what he does. We’re so caught up in the amount of points he scored. ... Does it matter if Ben had all 125? Would we be mad that Joel (Embiid) didn’t score? Who cares who scores as long as we’re scoring. ... When Ben plays, we score more points.”

Simmons scored six points in Philadelphia's 125-118 victory over Washington in Game 1 of their first-round series opener. He missed all six of his free throws and his shooting deficiencies sometimes overshadow his all-around game, including his impressive defense.

“He’s a big guy and he plays guard," said Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who scored 33 points in Game 1. "It’s not like he’s a power forward or a center guarding me. He’s very mobile, agile, and he’s strong. So that propels him. And the fact that he wants to play defense. He’s a willing defender. You don’t always see that.”

The 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies and Atlanta Hawks each look to take 2-0 series leads on Wednesday night.

While Philadelphia won its opener against Beal, Russell Westbrook and sub.-500 Washington, Western Conference No. 1 seed Utah fell to Memphis 112-109 in Game 1. The Jazz expect to have Donovan Mitchell back Wednesday after he was a late scratch Sunday.

“I was definitely frustrated and upset that I wasn’t able to play,” Mitchell said. “I’m a competitor. I felt I was ready to go, and unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.”

Wednesday’s games:

WIZARDS AT 76ers

Philadelphia leads 1-0. Game 2, 7 p.m. EDT, TNT.

— NEED TO KNOW: Philadelphia won’t need more scoring from Simmons if Tobias Harris continues carrying the offense in stretches like he did when he had 37 points Sunday.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: Embiid was a non-factor in the first half of Game 1 when he got into early foul trouble. But the Wizards couldn’t stop him in the second half and he finished with 30 points.

— INJURY WATCH: Beal dealt with hamstring problems late in the regular season but still played 40 minutes in the opener.

— PRESSURE IS ON: The Sixers had the league’s second-best home record and can’t afford a misstep that would give Washington home-court advantage.

HAWKS AT KNICKS

Atlanta leads 1-0. Game 2, 7:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.

— NEED TO KNOW: Atlanta’s 107-105 victory in Game 1 was its first in four tries against New York this season. Trae Young had 32 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in his playoff debut, hitting the tiebreaking floater with 0.9 seconds left. He was jeered and cursed by the Madison Square Garden crowd all night and the fans might be even more vocal with their rage Wednesday after he held his finger to his lips following his winning shot.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: The Knicks’ point guard rotation. Starter Elfrid Payton has been struggling and though coach Tom Thibodeau has resisted making a change so far, he certainly isn’t sticking with Payton for long. Sixth man Derrick Rose checked in after barely four minutes in the first quarter and even quicker to start the third, and Payton never got back into the game in either half.

— INJURY WATCH: Knicks center Nerlens Noel tweaked his ankle in Game 1 but Thibodeau expects him to be ready for Game 2.

— PRESSURE IS ON: Julius Randle. The All-Star forward needs to play better and said he will after shooting just 6 for 23 in the opener, finishing with 15 points after scoring 40 twice against the Hawks during the regular season.

GRIZZLIES AT JAZZ

Memphis leads 1-0. Game 2, 10 p.m. EDT, TNT.

— NEED TO KNOW: Memphis has a chance at its first 2-0 series lead in franchise history. A No. 8 seed has held a 2-0 series lead against a No. 1 seed only twice before. Chicago led Boston 2-0 in 2017, and the Los Angeles Lakers had a 2-0 lead over Phoenix in 1993 in a best-of-five series.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: How well the Jazz take care of the ball. The Grizzlies had a 17-2 edge in deflections, and Kyle Anderson set a franchise playoff record with six of Memphis’ 12 steals in Game 1.

— INJURY WATCH: Mitchell hasn’t played since spraining his right ankle April 16 so he may have to shake off some rust. The All-Star averaged career bests of 26.4 points and 5.2 assists per game this season.

— PRESSURE IS ON: The Jazz had the NBA’s best record this season and only lost five times at home during the regular season. Memphis is the youngest team in the playoffs, so the Grizzlies already have home-court advantage in this series knowing capacity will be hiked to 55% in the FedExForum when they return home.

___

AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney and AP Sports Writers Teresa M. Walker and Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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