Philadelphia – When the Nets faced the 76ers two days before Thanksgiving, they lost to a decimated team. On Wednesday, in the rematch — the first time Nets’ Ben Simmons has faced former teammate Joel Embiid — the effort was much better, but the end result was the same.
Playing their seventh straight game without Kevin Durant, the slain Nets lost 137-133 heartbroken to a fat crowd at the Wells Fargo Center, who booed Simmons at every touch.
Fans might have booed him with all their breath if they could. Such is the city’s hatred for Simmons, who asked for a trade last season amid a souring relationship with Embiid and was traded to the Nets for James Harden.
Embiid, who returned to the lineup on Wednesday after missing Saturday with a sore foot, was largely outclassed by Nick Claxton, who scored 25 points on 11-for-12 shooting, while adding 11 rebounds and two blocks. But the nets did not lose because of Embiid. They lost because they dug a hole too deep for them to get out.
The Nets trailed by 17 points in the third quarter and continued to fall 116-102 in the fourth quarter before tying the score 18-4. But they couldn’t get over the hump, giving right back an 8-2.
Kyrie Irving’s bucket cut the Sixers’ lead to 133-131 with 45 seconds remaining, but Harden followed with a finger roll to essentially put him in the game.
It was a much better effort than the Nets’ November 22 loss at the Wells Fargo Center, when the Sixers played without Embiid, Harden, and Tyrese Maxey.
“when [Embiid plays], I think we have to dictate. “You have to create some form of chaos and get them to interact with you,” said Nets coach Jack Vaughn. “please [the bigger guy] You dictate what happens, it just won’t fair very well.
“Whether it’s changing the things we’re doing over the course of the night or getting them to think a little bit about who’s going to guard, what position he’s going to be defensive in, we’re going to throw a few things defensively at him that ‘re-dictate, not react’.”
On Wednesday, the Nets lost a 7-0 second-quarter series lead to the Sixers and never regained it. They outscored 10-2 on turnover in the quarter.
Seth Curry, who arrived with Simmons in Harden’s trade, led the Nets with 32 points on 7-for-10 shooting from behind the arc. Irving added 30 points and 10 assists, while Simmons started terribly, but finished with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists on the team.
The Nets (29-18) are down 2-5 since losing Durant to a twisted right MCL on Jan. 8. The team announced on Tuesday that it will not be reassessed for two weeks.
Maxey scored 27 points and Embiid scored 26 on the Sixers (31-16) under par 6-for-18 shooting. Harden finished with 23 points — eight in the fourth quarter — and seven assists.
The Nets took a 43-41 lead in the second quarter when Irving found TJ Warren for a short fade. But they surrendered seven unanswered points, capped by a Maxi-progressive 3-pointer that made it 48-43.
They trailed by 10 at the break and the deficit swelled to 94-77 after Embiid and one midway through the third quarter.
It was still 116-102 after Maxey’s bucket with 8:59 left in the game, but the Nets fell the next eight unanswered points, part of an 18-4 extended series.
Curry pulled it within 120-117, and after a Harden trip, Curry held it to a 3-pointer with 4:06 to play. But they did not advance.
Harden hit a three-pointer of his own to break it up, resulting in a small 8-2 spurt that proved difficult to overcome.