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Philadelphia 76ers’ Doc Rivers defends Ben Simmons after Wizards hack way to Game 4 win

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Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers defended his decision to keep Ben Simmons on the court late in Monday’s game despite the Washington Wizards‘ use of his poor free throw shooting en route to a 122-114 Game 4 victory at Capital One Arena.

The Wizards intentionally fouled Simmons four times in the game, including three times in the final two minutes as they took the lead for good. Simmons came into the game 0 of 9 from the foul line in the series and went 1 of 2 at the line each time Washington purposely hacked him.

“You want me to take Ben Simmons off the floor? He’s pretty good. I’ll pass on that suggestion,” Rivers said. “He could have [made more free throws] but he didn’t. But he still does other things. I’ll take that. Listen, keep the narrative going, we’re just going to keep playing.”

Rivers has defended and advocated for Simmons throughout the season, backing him for Defensive Player of the Year and praising his playmaking. After Simmons scored just six points but had 15 rebounds and 15 assists in the 76ers’ Game 1 victory over the Wizards, Rivers chided fans who were critical of his scoring.

Simmons shot 61% at the line on the season but just 53% after the All-Star break.

“I’m not upset, it’s basketball,” said Simmons, who was 5 of 10 from the line in the game and scored 13 points overall. “I’m not worried about people fouling me.”

Rivers said that Simmons making at least one free throw per trip to the line was statistically acceptable and that he didn’t feel it cost the 76ers the game.

“I didn’t think he was scared of the moment, he just didn’t make them,” Rivers said. “We’re going to keep him on the floor. Unless you guys want us to bench him the whole game, if anybody wants us to do that let me know and I’ll know you don’t know basketball.”

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Denver Nuggets expect to have Michael Porter Jr., maybe Will Barton in Game 2 vs. Phoenix Suns

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Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Tuesday that forward Michael Porter Jr. should be “good to go” for Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night and that guard Will Barton could return to the court for the first time in almost two months, as well.

“I think Michael Porter should be good to go,” Malone said, after Porter tweaked his back in Denver’s 122-105 loss to Phoenix in Game 1 on Monday night. “He got treatment all day today, had a good conversation with him. But, barring anything unforeseen, Michael should be good to go for Game 2.”

Porter, the ultra-talented third-year forward, missed his entire first season in the NBA with back issues. But Porter, who had 15 points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes in Game 1, has developed into an elite scorer to complement Nuggets superstar — and newly minted NBA Most Valuable PlayerNikola Jokic.

Meanwhile, Barton, who has been out since hurting his hamstring on April 23 against the Golden State Warriors, could make his return in Game 2. That would be a significant boost for a Nuggets team that has been without Jamal Murray, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, as well as reserve guard PJ Dozier.

Malone wasn’t ready to commit to Barton getting minutes in Game 2 but said he was moving well Tuesday and that he hoped the latest the veteran would return to the court would be Game 3 on Friday in Denver.

“Will Barton had another really good day,” Malone said. “So I definitely think he’s a possible candidate to play tomorrow. Now, I’m not trying to say that he’s definitely going to play — we have to continue to have those conversations with the training staff — but to me, the eye test, watching Will play today, I have a lot of hope that he’s able to give us some minutes tomorrow, and if it’s not Game 2, maybe it’s Game 3 as we move back to Denver.

“But that’s not guaranteed, so let’s not get too excited.”

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Follow live: 76ers try to avoid 0-2 hole at home vs. Hawks

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