Ben Simmons and Dante Exum square off for first time in NBA
AUSTRALIANS Ben Simmons and Dante Exum have lived a childhood dream, going head-to-head in an NBA game for the first time as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Utah Jazz 113-107 in a thriller.
Simmons had 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists and orchestrated key plays in the tense final minute for the 76ers, and Exum contributed seven points and four assists for the Jazz on Friday, local time, in Philadelphia.
The game also featured the Jazz's other Australian, Joe Ingles, who finished with 14 points, although he had an open three-point attempt with 40 seconds to go but shot a costly air ball with his team trailing by two points.
Jimmy Butler, who joined the 76ers on Tuesday after a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves, dropped 28 points.
"He's an incredible passer," Butler said of Simmons after the Australian delivered a pinpoint pass for a late game-winning basket.
"He knew I was going to be there. I tip my hat to him."
The game also pitted Simmons against the Jazz's Donovan Mitchell, who registered 31 points.
Simmons beat Mitchell for the Rookie of the Year Award last season after an acrimonious campaign where Mitchell accused Simmons of not being a rookie - as the Australian had sat out the previous year with a foot fracture.
Simmons and Exum, both sons of US NBL imports, grew up to together in Australia playing in backyard basketball games and on junior representative squads. They often spoke about eventually competing in the NBA.
Injuries in the past two years cost the good friends the opportunity to go head-to-head.
Tyreke Evans, Domantas Sabonis and Cory Joseph led a dominant bench effort as the host Indiana Pacers defeated the Miami Heat 99-91.
Spencer Dinwiddie scored 25 points off the bench, D'Angelo Russell added 23 as the visiting Brooklyn Nets defeated the Washington Wizards 115-104.