Brett Brown said Ben Simmons showed why he was an "NBA All-Star at age 22" as the Philadelphia 76ers head coach lauded the Australian's performance in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
Simmons had been heavily criticised prior to Thursday's clash but the 76ers guard put up 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists as Philadelphia forced Game 7 with a 112-101 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
The 22-year-old managed just seven points in a blowout loss in Game 5 but with the 76ers facing elimination, Simmons responded in 34 impressive minutes, which did not include a turnover.
"I thought he was excellent and we needed it all," Brown told reporters of Simmons post-game. "He's 22 years old. His game, as he grows his shot and tries to get a better command of his position, and deals with the stage of the NBA Playoffs, shame on us for thinking he's gonna be like all day, every day, here he is and he's gonna go knock it out of the park.
"It's just not fair. What he did today was lots of the reasons he was an NBA All-Star at age 22, as an NBA point guard with the ball."
Brown added: "He was our bell ringer tonight. You see Jimmy Butler's performance, and so for Ben to be our bell ringer with some of those other performances sort of confirms what I think he did tonight."
Butler – Philadelphia's leading scorer with 25 points – also heaped praise on Simmons, who had not posted more than 10 points in the second-round series before Thursday.
"He attacked in transition, in the half, he made some free throws," said Butler. "That's how we need him to be.
"You can't key in on just one or two guys on this team, because we have so many guys who can put the ball in the basket. We have so many guys who can get a stop and go take off dribbling with the basketball.
"Like I said before, that's how we're going to win. When he's aggressive, when Tobias [Harris] is aggressive. It gives us a greater chance of winning."
Butler set the tone for the 76ers in the first half, scoring 19 points as the soon-to-be free agent showed why he will command a max contract in the offseason.
"I play to win," Butler said, with Game 7 in Toronto on Sunday. "Right now, this is what I have to do in order to give us a great chance at winning."