The Philadelphia 76ers level the series at 1-1, with a 94-89 win over the Toronto Raptors, with a much-improved defensive effort in Game 2.
4 TAKEAWAYS: Butler takes over Game 2 as 76ers square series at 1-1
Jimmy Butler set the tone in Toronto, but it was the job Ben Simmons did on Kawhi Leonard that stood out as the difference maker on the night.
Leonard still piled on 35 points on 13-of-24 shooting, but the Aussie shadowed the Raptors star at every turn, keeping the ball out of his hands and making him work for every bucket.
"I think Ben did a really good job on him," Brown said post-game.
"We tried to have different looks at times where we double him, we didn't, by and large it was Ben's assignment, although other people inherited him if we get switched out or Ben was out of the game or whatever and I thought Ben did a good job and to your point and you look down and you say 'well he's got 35' and he's just an incredibly gifted versatile scorer, really can score in a bunch of ways."
Simmons, who played 44 minutes in Game 2 had his work cut out for him, but after Leonard torched the 76ers in Game 1, he was held to just 15 first-half points, thanks largely to Simmons' coverage as Philly took a 13-point lead into the half.
"Just trying to make it hard, " Simmons said of his approach on Leonard, via Ben Mallis. "Obviously Kawhi is a very talented guy. He is an All-Star. He is great so just trying to make it hard for him offensively. It was my job so I am glad we got that win."
While Simmons didn't have his best offensive game, he controlled the tempo on the offensive end, while making life tough for one of the game's most gifted scorers, especially in the opening quarter as the Raptors offence struggled to get clean looks at the rim.
"I thought our defence at the start of the game was almost as good as it could be," Brett Brown added, as the 76ers held the Raptors to just 29.2% from the field in the opening quarter (7-of-24 FG, 1-of-8 3PT).
Through the first two games of the series, Simmons has proven to be the most effective defender against Leonard, using his length and athleticism to contest shots and disrupt the Raptors offence. Expect to see more of Simmons vs Kawhi as the series now shifts to Philadelphia, with the 76ers holding home court.