By Michael Bennett
Sixers super rook Ben Simmons will return tonight when the Cleveland Cavaliers come to town..
Simmons, who leads all rookies in scoring (18.5), rebounding (9.1) and assists (7.7), sat out the 130-111 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday with a sore left elbow.
T.J. McConnell took his place in the starting lineup and generated Simmons-like totals: 15 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
“I was just finding open guys and they were making shots,” McConnell said. “It’s that easy. I don’t want to overcomplicate it. Just running the offense and finding the shooters and trying to find the big fella (Joel Embiid), too.”
J.J. Redick poured in 29 points, including 8-of-12 3-point shooting, and Dario Saric contributed 21 for Philly, which won its third straight and its fifth in six games. Embiid had 18 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, and Robert Covington scored 14 points.
Now the resurgent Sixers, who finished 10-72 two seasons ago, set their sights on the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions.
“Cleveland is going to come in, and it’s going to be amazing for the building,” coach Brett Brown said. “This building is wild. How about our fans? Are you kidding me? I can’t even talk to my coaching staff sometimes and they’re a foot from me. It’s fantastic. What a great thing for our city.”
The meeting, Brown added, is “timely” for the Sixers.
“We’re playing good basketball,” he said. “We look forward to seeing them.”
The Cavaliers (12-7) have won seven straight, and LeBron James is playing as well as ever, averaging 28.5 points, 8.6 assists and 7.8 rebounds. Kevin Love averages a double-double — 17.9 points and 10.4 boards.
Derrick Rose, however, left the team last Wednesday to handle a personal matter. There is no timetable for his return, and the oft-injured guard is mulling whether he wants to continue playing, according to an ESPN report.
Sixers rookie guard Markelle Fultz, the first overall pick in this year’s draft, has missed the last 14 games with a shoulder injury. Justin Anderson (shin splints) and Nik Stauskas (ankle sprain) are also out.