Ben Simmons dunks on RJ Barrett in the Philadelphia 76ers win over the New York Knicks.
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Ben Simmons is 10-0 in his career against the New York Knicks and he finally reveals his secret to that success.

Danny Small

NEW YORK, NY—Ben Simmons is undefeated against the New York Knicks in his career, and somehow, that undersells his dominance. The Philadelphia 76ers point forward continues to find new ways to have success against the Knicks.

In 10 career games against New York, Simmons is averaging 14.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game. Joel Embiid led the way on Friday night with 27 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks, but Simmons had his fingerprints all over the victory.

What’s the reason for his dominance over the Knicks? His grandfather.


As he walked out of the locker room, he approached his grandfather and told him exactly what he told me.

“It’s because my grandfather comes here and he doesn’t like any New York teams. I swear. I promise you,” Simmons told ESNY.

Simmons wasn’t dominant on Friday night, but he made his mark on the game. Although his 15 points, five boards, and eight assists were crucial for Philly’s 101-95 victory, his biggest play of the night came on the defensive end.

Following a timeout with just over a minute left to play, he tipped a pass from Frank Ntilikina which led to a steal and a dunk that gave the Sixers a seven-point lead. It wasn’t a death knell for New York, but it certainly put the Knicks one step closer to another loss.

While his grandfather is surely a motivating factor for Simmons’ effective play in New York, there’s so much more that makes the All-Star stand out. His unique blend of size, vision, and high basketball IQ is rare. In fact, Simmons reminds Knicks head coach David Fizdale of another player he coached.

“He reminds me of this guy I coached in Miami for a little bit with that size and that speed. The ability to see the floor and make other people better,” Fizdale said prior to the game.

“You just have to have a real toughness against him and you’ve gotta really take the challenge against him,” Fizdale added. “And the other four guys gotta be ready to do two jobs. You’ve gotta be ready to help and be ready to close out and get to guys. But the way he’s coming along in this league and the way he continues to look better and better, it’s something to see.”

The Knicks were the aggressors early, building a 16-point first-half lead while the Sixers looked completely disinterested in playing. However, there was a clear change in momentum in the second half.

“It was intensity, locking down, knowing personnel, getting to the rim and causing fouls and putting ourselves in the bonus is what made the difference,” Simmons said after the win.

Putting together a full 48 minutes of basketball has been an issue for the Knicks this season. Although they’ll have exceptional stretches of play at times, they often fail to sustain their play for four quarters. Against a perennial playoff team like the Sixers, that’s a recipe for disaster.

“We got a bad start to the second half. Back and forth game but we just have to put together 48 minutes,” Julius Randle said.

“We got to do it for all 48,” rookie RJ Barrett added. “They’re a great team, playoff team. They are not going to just stop. Third quarter—we kind of came out flat and they jumped on us.”

The loss drops the Knicks to 4-15 on the year. Eleven games below .500 is a season-worst mark for Fizdale’s squad and it’s one game worse than the 2018-19 Knicks were through 19 games. That 2018-19 team eventually tied a franchise-worst record of 17-65 and it looks like they are well on their way to a very similar season.

Divisions are more or less meaningless in today’s NBA. However, the Knicks are guaranteed to play each team in the Atlantic division four times each season. That means playoff teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, and 76ers make up just under 20% of the schedule. Thus far, the Knicks are 0-7 against intradivisional opponents. Yikes.

Ben Simmons isn’t going away anytime soon. The Knicks’ next chance at taking Philly down will come on Jan. 18 back in Madison Square Garden again. There’s no telling where the Knicks will be at that point in time, but if Simmons’ grandfather is in the building again, it’s easy to like Philly’s chances.

 

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