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Philadelphia 76ers

How can the Philadelphia 76ers survive without Ben Simmons? Pound the ball in the paint more than ever before

#JoelEmbiidHorford

In their first game without Ben Simmons in the lineup in the season restart, the Philadelphia 76ers brought Al Horford back to the starting lineup.

The combination of Horford and Joel Embiid didn't exactly jell earlier in the season, but with nowhere else to turn, 76ers head coach Brett Brown went back to the twin tower lineup.

With Horford and Embiid on the floor, Philly gave us a glimpse at what they might look to do offensively if Simmons can't return to the lineup - pound the rock inside.

It's on-brand for the 76ers, who have been happy to go inside and punish teams down low this season. According to NBA Stats, Philadelphia is averaging 12.8 post-up possessions per game - the most in the league - while ranking in the 96.6 percentile in efficiency. They've been deadly on the block.

With Horford and Embiid on the floor, it gives Brown two excellent options to go to work down low. Horford spent the first part of the season standing around the 3-point line in order to space the floor for Embiid post-ups, which is part of the reason why he wasn't able to jell with the All-Star centre and might have been the reason why he struggled to find ways to contribute offensively.

With Simmons out of the picture - for the time being, at least - Horford might not have to be as focused on spacing the floor and might get more opportunities like this in the flow of the offence:

Why is it important?

There's no one equipped to take over the playmaking role that Simmons leaves behind, so the 76ers will likely have to do it by committee. Embiid is one of the best - if not the best - post scorer in the game today, but he leaves a lot to be desired with his ability to pass out of the post.

Horford, however, has always been a solid playmaker with his back to the basket. Yes, the 76ers will need Horford to score more and be more aggressive without their All-Star guard, but he is also more than capable of finding open looks for his teammates, as evidence by this look he creates for Shake Milton:

If Simmons can't return for the postseason, the 76ers will have to play Embiid and Horford more together. Finding the balance between them on offence will be tough, as both are more effective on the block than they are standing on the perimeter. But if they can find that balance, it could be a nightmare matchup for a potential playoff opponent.

As it sits right now, the 76ers would take on Boston in the first round. If there's one particular weakness in the Celtics' lineup, it's that they don't have a big who can handle a tough matchup for a seven-game series.

If the two teams face off in the playoffs, Philly might be able to impose their will on the Celtics in the post, which might make the absence of Simmons less apparent.

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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