PHILADELPHIA — For almost five months, the best case scenario the Philadelphia 76ers front office had imagined in the backcourt, playing Rookie of the Year favorite Ben Simmons and 2017 No. 1 overall draft pick Markelle Fultz had been taken away, as Fultz’s rehab of a shoulder injury forced Sixers nation to only imagine what the possibilities were in marrying those two forces of nature.
There is no more imagining now, and if the time they spent together on the court on Wednesday evening is any indicator, the Sixers’ future, somehow, just got even brighter.
Simmons put up 15 points, 12 rebounds and six assists and eight Sixers players scored in double figures as Philadelphia routed the Brooklyn Nets 121-95 at Wells Fargo Center, the team’s 11th consecutive victory. The winning streak is the longest for the Sixers since 1990.
While the Sixers played once more without center Joel Embiid, recovering from facial surgery to repair an orbital fracture suffered last week, Philadelphia once again has had to do some tinkering with its rotation. Its latest experiment, done tonight, is pairing Simmons and Fultz, a reserve, in the backcourt to see what magic they can produce together.
Fultz thrived with the ball in his hands as he had a number of successful drives to the basket while Simmons, as well as the deadly perimeter shooters Philadelphia possesses, acted as decoys in spurts. Fultz ended the game with 10 points, three assists and two rebounds in 20:49 of action, the second-most minutes played for Fultz in an NBA regular season game in his young career. His 10 points tied a career high, as he hit five of his eight shots from the field.
“Just the pace and the ball moves. It’s that simple to me, you play with a pace offensively and the ball moves,” said Sixers head coach Brett Brown in describing what he liked from the team when Fultz and Simmons were on the floor together. “Defensively, I think Markelle is proving me wrong, he is better defensively than I initially expected him to be and tonight the first half, [the Nets are] such a dynamic team of the balance of the three-point shot and go-catch-go-go stuff, they caught him off-guard on closeouts. But for the most part, he was very good tonight, he’s trending upward in my mind there’s no doubt about it.”
If Fultz is trending upward, Simmons continues to break through the ceiling with his stellar rookie campaign. During the 11-game winning streak, Simmmons is averaging 13.4 points, 11.3 assists and 10.3 rebounds, while also averaging 1.7 steals and shooting 58 percent from the field. His performance tonight also allowed him, according to basketball-reference.com, to become just the second rookie in NBA history with 1,200 points, 600 rebounds and 600 assists in his rookie season, joining Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, who pulled off that feat in his rookie year in the 1960-61 campaign.
Five players scored in double figures for the Nets, led by the 16 off the bench from Spencer Dinwiddie.