PHILADELPHIA —It’s assumed that the 76ers will use Ben Simmons to guard Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard when the teams play their Eastern Conference semifinal series beginning Saturday in Toronto.
Thursday before practice, Sixers coach Brett Brown hinted that Simmons alone won’t have the task of trying to stop Leonard, who averaged 27.8 points in Toronto’s first-round series win over Orlando.
“We have the ability to have multiple people guard Kawhi,” Brown said. “So it will be wrong to assume that is (Simmons’) matchup for the series.”
Of course, Brown said Simmons will see his share of Leonard.
“For sure, he will be on him,” Brown said. “I think we have different candidates. We hope to show Kawhi some different looks.”
One of those looks might include 6-foot-7 James Ennis, who is among the Sixers’ key reserves. Ennis also has postseason experience guarding Leonard —in 2017, when Leonard and San Antonio beat Ennis’ Memphis Grizzlies team in six games during an opening-round Western Conference series.
“He averaged 30 in the series, and I did the best I could,” said Ennis, who started four of the six games and averaged 26.5 minutes in the series.
Actually, Leonard averaged 31.2 points, shooting .548 from the field and .483 from 3-point range.
“I know he scored a lot on pick-and-rolls, so that will be the key,” Ennis said. “So defending pick-and-rolls and also being physical with him, making his shots tough. It is going to be a challenge, and I am excited for the challenge and ready to guard him.”
Jimmy Butler had many roles in the five-game series win over the Brooklyn Nets in the opening round. In Game 1, he scored a playoff career-high 36 points. After that, he became more of a facilitator. During the Sixers’ 112-108 win in Game 4, he was an enforcer, sort of. Butler was ejected from the game after shoving Jared Dudley to the floor during a melee.
In the Brooklyn series, Butler averaged 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.0 steals and played his usual tough defensive game.
“I do whatever it takes for my team to win,” Butler said. “I know what I am capable of.”
He said whether he is needed to score, defend, dish, or do all of that, he’ll be ready.
“We have a lot of talented guys on the roster who do a lot of things well, and I just fit in where I can fit in,” Butler said.