Aussie NBA sensation Ben Simmons supplied a demonstration of his value in a recent game with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now that Cleveland no longer has LeBron James to carry it, they have sunk to a record that makes them the third-worst team in in NBA, but they still had the teeth to throw a scare into the Sixers when touring to Philadelphia.
The Cavs hung around all game and took a lead with less than three minutes remaining in the game, which elicited a chorus of boos from the home crowd, who had shown up expecting to see a bloodbath.
This is the stage of the NBA season where teams such as Cleveland typically tank deliberately to try to gain a top pick in the NBA’s lottery system.
Simmons and the 76ers, meanwhile, hold the third spot in the NBA Eastern Conference. It would not appear, with just over a dozen games remaining in the regular season, that they can overtake number one Milwaukee or number two Toronto.
Philly is five wins behind the Raptors and eight behind the Bucks, so unless one or both has an epic collapse, the more pressing issue for Philadelphia is trying to stay in front of the Indiana Pacers and the Boston Celtics.
Cleveland helped the Sixers earlier in the week by beating Toronto, so it would seem they are denying expectations by playing to win even though any playoff aspirations expired long ago.
The Cavs came close to their second big scalp in a row by making the 76ers work for the victory much harder than would have been expected.
They tried the tactic that other teams have used on Simmons in close games, sending him to the free throw line, where Simmons has continued to struggle despite sending big chunks of time during the offseason working to improve that aspect of his game.
Simmons made his charity toss near the end of the game, proving that in professional basketball, the only good strategy is the strategy that is successful.