Nets lose ugly game in Ben Simmons’ return to Philadelphia

Brooklyn Nets’ Ben Simmons goes up for a shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, in Philadelphia.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

PHILADELPHIA — In his first game back on the floor at Wells Fargo Center, Ben Simmons put up a double-double for the Nets, but despite a shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers lineup the Nets still fell on Tuesday night. 

The Nets struggled to knock down the open threes, lost the battle along the offensive glass and couldn’t get the timely stops when they managed to close the gap in a 115-106 loss to the Sixers. Most of the lead-up to the game centered around Simmons’ return to Philadelphia, but the Sixers spoiled that return leading for the better part of the night even as the Nets hung around. 

“Overall, the approach. Boils down to that. Just overall as a group how serious, how focused, how dedicated were we on every possession,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Haven’t asked the group that. I will ask them that. Overall, just not what we needed. That’s the great thing about basketball, you pay for it if you don’t bring it.”

Simmons heard plenty of razzing throughout the night from the home crowd, which had been waiting since 2021 to give him a piece of their mind. The Brooklyn guard was greeted by a group of supporters during warmups, but the hostility appeared during player introductions as Simmons was loudly booed when his name was announced. 

The 26-year-old was mercilessly booed when he stepped to the free throw line in the first quarter and a “F–k Ben Simmons” chant emanated from the crowd at various points of the night. After Georges Niang was called for a flagrant foul on Simmons, the Nets point guard was again met with defining boos as he shot and a “Simmons Sucks” chant.

He was met with some positivity earlier in the night when a sizable group of fans were there to show their support for him. 

“It was just nice to see I have support in Philadelphia still and lifelong fans,” Simmons said. “They do support me so that was really cool to see. That’s a nice feeling. I think I did some things in Philadelphia that can be respected and appreciated. … It wa good to have moments like that.” 

The 76ers played without Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, and it was expected that the star-studded Nets lineup would be able to dispatch the Sixers. Instead, the Nets struggled to get over the hump as they closed in on the Sixers at several points during the night. 

As a team, the Nets shot a paltry 9-of-28 from three-point range, with Joe Harris shooting just 1-for-7 from beyond the arc and Seth Curry not doing much better in a 2-of-6 night. 

The most egregious part of the Nets game came along the offensive boards, where they were outrebounded 20-4. The overall rebounding deficit was at 49-35 when the final buzzer sounded. 

The Nets were outscored in second-chance points, 25-7, in a game that will be looked at as an ugly loss for Brooklyn. 

Kyrie Irving finished the night with a team-high 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while adding two rebounds, two assists and two steals. Kevin Durant ended the game with 20 points along with six assists, five rebounds and two steals. 

Simmons in his return had 11 points and 11 assists, marking the second time this season that he registered a double-double. He also had three blocks and two steals. 

“I mean it’s the same S–t. 20 more shots than us and seven more three-pointers, that’s the game,” Durant said. “Just go do it, I mean just go do what we need to do. Rebound, box out, move the ball. Guard it one-on-one.” 

The night had started off promising for the Nets, who quickly jumped to a 10-4 lead in the first four minutes of the game. However, the Sixers quickly worked to close the gap and a Montrezl Harrell dunk with 5:37 left in the opening quarter tied the game at 18.

Durant hit a pull-up shot to put the Nets ahead by two, but Philadelphia answered right back with a three from Furkan Korkmaz to put them back in front 21-20. From that point on the 76ers controlled the first half, eventually taking a 12 point lead — their largest of the half — off a driving dunk by Paul Reed.

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Brooklyn battled back in the second quarter going on an 8-0 run that cut the Sixers’ lead to 42-38. The Nets went on another run, this time a 14-2 run, that culminated with a Curry jumper and the game being tied at 50. 

The Nets and 76ers traded baskets before ending the half with Brooklyn down 63-57. 

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