The last time the Sixers played the Grizzlies, they were waiting for the arrival of Jimmy Butler and had just nine players. The Sixers blew a 16-point lead on Nov. 10 in Memphis and fell in overtime.
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Sunday night felt much different. The Sixers held onto the lead they built in the first half and beat the Grizzlies, 103-95, to improve to 17-8.
Ben Simmons starred with 19 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Butler had 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, including a jumper from the right wing with 49.6 seconds left to effectively seal the win. JJ Redick had a game-high 24 points.
• After a perfect shooting night Friday vs. Washington (5 for 5 from the floor, 3 for 3 from the foul line), Simmons picked up where he left off. Simmons made his first three field goals, attacking his matchup with Kyle Anderson.
Simmons maintained that mentality throughout the first half, showing no hesitation in posting up smaller defenders. He had 15 first-half points.
He had another excellent game on defense as well - Simmons is one of the only players in the NBA who can truly guard one through five. He may not be the best defender on the Sixers, but he's the only one who opponents can't target on a switch.
Simmons' chemistry with his "headband brother" Butler continues to grow.
• Outside of the Sixers' early spurt to take a 10-3 lead, the Grizzlies were successful in shaping the game to their slow, physical, testy terms.
There were plenty of long possessions, off-ball tussling and unpleasantries exchanged.
Credit Memphis for forcing the Sixers to play their style.
• T.J. McConnell made the quintessential T.J. McConnell play with 3:12 left in the first quarter. Following a made three-pointer from Landry Shamet, McConnell denied Shelvin Mack the ball. The Grizzlies tried to force a pass into Mack, the ball bounced off his leg and out of bounds, and the Wells Fargo Center crowd loved it.
McConnell, who had six points, three rebounds and three assists, has his deficiencies - he's 2 for 9 from three-point range this season, and opponents have often succeeded at exploiting him on switches defensively. But the energy and spark he brings to the Sixers is real, and it has an impact.
• Like in the Sixers' first meeting with the Grizzlies, Joel Embiid had an off night offensively, with 15 points on 4 for 13 shooting, but he did a stellar job on Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies' big man had 12 points on 4 for 14 shooting.
• Wilson Chandler missed Sunday's game with a left quad contusion sustained in a knee to thigh collision on Wednesday vs. the Wizards. Mike Muscala started in his place.
Brett Brown said he expects Chandler to play on Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors.
• Muscala guarded Jaren Jackson Jr., the Grizzlies' impressive rookie. Before the game, Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff said Jackson reminded him of a young Kevin Garnett, with his "ability to put the ball on the floor, face-up jumper, and defensive acumen."
We saw glimpses of all those qualities Sunday night from Jackson, who snuffed out with what looked like an easy fast break dunk from Simmons with a high-flying block in the first quarter.
Jackson had 17 points and three blocks.
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