BROOKLYN, NY -- With the boos raining down on him every time he touched the ball, Philadelphia's Ben Simmons recorded two of his most polished playoff games to help the Sixers take a 3-1 series lead back to the City of Brotherly Love.
Simmons finished the Game 4 win with 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, as well as one crucial steal with 4.8 seconds left in the game that helped seal victory.
The Australian said he felt an extra sense of responsibility late in the game, especially after the ejection of Jimmy Butler in the third quarter.
"Just staying calm, trying to keep everyone together, taking it play-by-play," Simmons said. "It was a long game, there was a lot of stuff going on early, but I think we maintained our mindset with the game and kept a level head on us."
Ever since his quiet showing in Game 1 -- a game which the Sixers lost -- Simmons has well and truly showed up for Philadelphia. His important game Saturday backed up a signature playoff performance in the series-changing Game 3 win in Brooklyn.
In the face of incessant booing, Simmons finished with 31 points (84.6% from the field), nine assists and four rebounds.
"I think we forget he's 22 years old," Sixers coach Brett Brown said after Game 3. "Whether he's getting booed or there's something else going on with some level of scrutinizing Ben, he is incredibly confident within himself.
"He had 31 points and the percentage that he did. I think he feeds off of that, but it's not like he's out there beating his chest. Internally I think he's got tremendous confidence."
The booing by fans came after a back-and-forth between Simmons and the Nets' Jared Dudley who answered a reporters question after Game 1 about how best to guard the Australian by saying, "He's a great player in transition, and once you get him in the half court, he's average."
When probed for a response to Dudley's comment, Simmons dismissed the Brooklyn veteran.
Simmons' teammate Jonah Bolden said that a "lightbulb went off' for Simmons after his poor Game 1 showing, and then he responded accordingly.
"It reflects his game," said Bolden on Thursday. "We're all human and make mistakes, but he responded in the second game, and he responded tonight. He took it to another level and I'm sue he'll continue to do that."
After Thursday's Game 3 win, Simmons joined some elite company. He became just the third player, behind Oscar Roberston and Magic Johnson, to record 200 points, 100 rebounds and 100 assists through their first 13 playoff games.
When asked about Simmons' milestone, Brown said he was more impressed with the defensive intensity he's seen from his point guard in recent games.
"My first reaction is my most recent memory of how good a job defensively he's done," Brown said. "You are rolling out some amazing players that history maybe [gives] a better context. You look at the size, the athleticism, and the skill package that he's able to play with at 22-years."
While Game 3 may have been Simmons' benchmark playoff game in his young career so far, Saturday's late-game steal will certainly be his signature defensive playoff moment. Simmons has spent much of the series harassing Nets' leader D'Angelo Russell, his length causing match-up problems for the much shorter Russell.
Much like Brown, teammate Jimmy Butler has noticed Simmons' defensive intensity increase.
"I think that Ben has done a great job on D-Lo and contesting every single three that he has; rebounding and being aggressive at the rim," Butler said. "Finding guys that are open. When he's out there, leading the group setting great screens, getting to the basket, I think you can say whatever you wanna say about him, but he's been pretty dominant."
Now with a chance to close out a pesky Nets team at home on Monday, Simmons deserves credit for bouncing back with probably three of his best games of his career in the face of criticism, and continue to show just how dominant he can be when he's locked in.