PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ben Simmons got an earful from the Philly crowd.
With the same 76ers fans Simmons put on blast for booing in the playoff opener now going wild in Game 2, Simmons cupped a hand to his right ear just like Allen Iverson’s signature move to spur the cheers even louder.
And he did it with Iverson rooting on the Sixers from courtside.
Simmons had 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds and the Philadelphia 76ers had an answer for the pesky Brooklyn Nets in a 145-123 win to even their Eastern Conference playoff series Monday night.
“I was just trying to be me,” Simmons said.
Simmons had a disastrous Game 1 , on the court (nine points) and from a PR perspective after he criticized fans for booing during a game the Sixers were never really in. He backtracked the next day at practice and never gave another 20,591 fans a chance to do anything but roar in approval in Game 2. Simmons flashed the All-Star form that helped lead the Sixers to 51 wins, and was aggressive from tipoff. He used his size and speed to attack the lane and scored 16 points in the half en route to his second career postseason triple-double.
The Sixers busted the game open with a 14-0 run to start the second half and then stretched the lead to 20 on a Simmons steal and fastbreak basket. With a packed house standing, Simmons got a massive ovation when he cupped his hand to his right ear just like Iverson did in his prime.
“I was thinking about the boos from the last game,” Simmons said, smiling. “I have a lot of love for this city.”
Iverson and former Sixers teammate Dikembe Mutombo attended the game and tossed T-shirts into the crowd.
Had Mutombo played in this one, the Nets surely would have received one of his signature finger wags.
“Everybody’s got to bring it,” Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid said. “We need everybody.”
The Sixers got a little something from everybody in this one.
The Nets collapsed in the second half, outplayed and overmatched much as expected by pundits and bookmakers (they were 7.5-point Game 2 underdogs). The Sixers scored 51 points on 18 of 25 shooting and made all 11 free throws in the third.
“We expect a haymaker,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said before the game. “We know it’s coming. They’re too good, too talented. too well coached. It’s coming. It’s going to be how we react.”
Embiid shook off another game-time decision to play through tendinitis in his left knee and delivered after a sluggish Game 1. Embiid scored 13 points in the third as the Sixers raced to a 29-point lead.
“Whenever I’m out there, I kind of forget about the pain and just try and do the right things,” Embiid said.
On a minutes restriction, Embiid had some unexpected help from popular backup Boban Marjanovic. He scored 14 points in the first half (only Simmons had more with 16) and let the Sixers find a comfort level on offense with Embiid out for long stretches.
“This is just the path we’re on with Joel,” coach Brett Brown said. “There is zero doubt he is our crown jewel.”
Embiid was whistled for a flagrant foul for throwing an elbow at Jarrett Allen late in the half and the Sixers nursing a 65-64 lead.
“I got him pretty good and I’m sorry about it,” Embiid said, laughing at the pseudo apology.
Embiid had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Marjanovic scored 16.
Embiid played ball boy and had the crowd laughing when he hopped off the bench to wipe off a basketball.
The Sixers mopped the floor with the Nets.
The Nets head home for Games 3 and 4 certainly grateful for a split and at least a half of good basketball before the Sixers picked them apart. Spencer Dinwiddie led the Nets with 19 points and D’Angelo Russell had 16.
“I know the Barclays Center is going to be jumping in there,” Russell said. “The buzz around the city is what we needed.”
Nets: C Jared Dudley sat out with tightness in his right calf.
76ers: Mutombo, who helped lead the Sixers to the 2001 finals, rang the ceremonial bell. Iverson moved from his courtside seat to a suite to sit with actor Jamie Foxx.
PLENTY OF POINTS
The Sixers topped the 141 points scored in a 1967 playoff game against the San Francisco Warriors to set a team franchise record.
The series shifts to Barclays Center for Game 3 Thursday night and Game 4 Saturday.