Worst loss of the season. without line. Not up for discussion.
facing without a Philadelphia Seventy Sixers A team without its three stars — James Harden, Therese Maxey, and Joel Embiid — looked like a victory for the Nets.
And Brooklyn played likewise. They underestimated their opponent. The Nets defense was mixed all games, resulting in 16-of-32 triple-goals for Philadelphia, and the Sixers battered the glass to a 49-35 advantage in that category.
“It’s the same,” Kevin Durant said after the game. “20 more shots than us and seven more three-pointers. That’s the game.”
Thus, the Nets had the most embarrassing loss of the season and fell to 8-10 on the year with a chance of hitting . 500 losses. Somehow, Brooklyn managed to lose out to what was effectively the Philadelphia bench, which ranks last in goals per game and ranks 20th in the net rating.
“It’s really a mentality to decide we’re going to play defense,” said Jack Vaughn. “The amount of mistakes we made at halftime was mind-boggling for this group. We had to stop the tape because we didn’t have enough time to show them all.”
Ben Simmons, who returns to Philly as a player for the first time, was one of the few positives for the Knights on Tuesday. He recorded his second double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds and was one of the only players to display real energy and passion during his return to Philadelphia.
“I think he did really well,” Kyrie Irving said of Simmons in his first game since the deal went through. “The crowd isn’t going anywhere. It’s good to hear their loud voices, to hear the boos. Next time, hopefully that will motivate us to go out there and get that win a little bit more.”
Despite the loss, Vaughn thought the experience was good for Simmons.
“Really good. Yeah, I thought he was in attack mode. He was aggressive and showed a lot of poise all night,” said the coach. “He competed on both ends. So I thought overall the experience for him that they go through and get behind is really good.”
Irving had a decent shooting night with 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting, but his off-the-ball defense was particularly frustrating. (And we’re being nice.) His star player, Kevin Durant, was equally frustrating defensively, and his streak of scoring 25-plus points was finally broken (he scored 20 on the night on 14 snaps).
Philadelphia was led by Anthony Melton (22 points), who had a massive outing from deep, shooting 6-of-11 from deep. Tobias Harris was the game’s leading scorer with 24, and Shake Milton (16 points) carried his team over the finish line. Paul Reid, who filled in for Embiid, had 21 points and 10 boards.
After Simmons’ forced round of boos, Brooklyn immediately took advantage of the shorthanded Sixers, building an early 8-2 lead. Simmons was all over the place, starting right where he left off by pushing the pace against Memphis and throwing three passes early on. Kevin Durant was also involved in some early playmaking, and the main beneficiary of the players’ passing efforts was Nick Claxton, who scored six early points on several timed cuts.
Feely tried to tighten the screws by moving into the area which worked at first. Then, the Nets problem was solved by placing Durant, the most dangerous player at the Wells Fargo Center, in the middle of the floor to smear the area. This quickly led to Simmons producing buckets and assists.
On the Philly side of things, Montrezil Harrell smashed the glass to make four quick rebounds and six points in less than seven minutes. The Sixers also couldn’t miss from three, nailing five of their eight long-distance appearances. The opponent’s three-point shooting and defensive rebound put the nets into a 33-26 deficit to end the first half. That set an ugly tone.
Brooklyn’s defense looked even worse early in the second quarter. The Sixers destroyed the nets on largely unguarded rim runs, particularly by Reed, extending their lead to 42-33 before timeouts. The Nets responded by going 19-10 as the Nets started to go from three – as Seth Curry and Patty Mills both came off the bench and hit a long range shot.
Philly let the Nets go early, as the Sixers kept letting him rip off a touchdown run. Milton played three times to end the half when Kerry overassisted after turning the ball over on the other end, and Philadelphia’s 10-of-19 three-point shooting through two quarters gave them a 63-57 lead.
In the third, Irving finally got a walk after slumping the first six quarters of play upon his return from suspension. He hit a pair of jumpers and made an assist for Claxton in transition to give Brooklyn its first lead since the first quarter. Then, Tobias Harris came back alive after a quick trip to the locker room (he spun his ankle to start the third). Philadelphia’s actual lead option put up eight points in the quarter, including a two-point pull with 4 seconds remaining. Philly finished leading 85-82.
The fourth quarter kicked off and Brooklyn’s troubles in rebounding again. Reed made an impact all over the court — a smooth snapping-edge finish, poor inbound pass stealing, a block against Curry, an offensive rebound — and the Sixers harnessed the energy to build a 96-87 advantage.
Philadelphia never left their foot off the pedal. Tobias Harris continued to cook, pouring in six points with a miss in the Nets’ rotation and covering the count. Picking up the slack, Milton hit a slew of jumpers over the top of Joe Harris. Ultimately, Brooklyn’s indifference on defense and offensive glass doomed them to their tenth loss of the season.
This was one of the worst defensive games we’ve seen netting in a long time. Maybe you go back to last season.
Every player on the list – with the exception of Ben Simmons – has let the team down. The keys were soft throughout Tuesday’s entire contest, which TNT’s Stan Van Gundy commented on during the broadcast, and the Nets had a major problem with overassist.
A lot of this originated from the top down. His two best players, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, were particularly frustrated defensively.
Kyrie’s issues have been mostly off the ball. He had two major goofs at the end of the hour that resulted in the 76er’s six-point triples. This is the first one.
This was mentioned earlier in the article, but Melton hit a big three-pointer to end the inning to put the Sixers into the top 6. Why? Because after Philadelphia runs a screen/pop move for Reed and Georges Niang, Irving jumps on Niang for no reason whatsoever even with Kevin Durant properly positioned to contain the action. This, of course, leaves Irving’s man, Milton, open from three. Really weird overload help.
Here in the fourth quarter, Irving tries to play center field between Furkan Korkmaz and Reid while Nick Claxton shows up an extra assist against Tobias Harris. Things are going well at first. Harris leads, Claxton contains before falling back to his man (Reed), and Irving is well placed against Korkmaz. Then, for no reason at all, he jumps a bit to punt for a steal as Korkmaz goes up the wing for a three.
Even Irving’s defense on the ball was sorely lacking. He wasn’t great at staying in front of his tackles when he came back from suspension, and Melton blows easy on these possessions. That forces Nick Claxton to take turns competing, opening up a rebound opportunity for Harrel.
Kevin Durant wasn’t much better. He continued to have some odd moments as an off-the-ball defender, a problem that began to manifest in the win over Memphis. Perhaps he’s showing signs of fatigue after carrying this team on his back for the first 18 games, it’s hard to say. But you can’t deny that getting dusted by George Freakin’ Niang is hard on the stomach.
Brooklyn squandered what was largely a successful Ben Simmons return to Philadelphia because its two best players failed to show any sort of melee defensively. This cannot happen if that team wants to seriously view itself as a competitor, regardless of the competition.
Philly fans react to Simmons’ return
As Stan VanGundy said during the TNT broadcast, 76ers fans gave Ben Simmons a big “hello” upon his return and booed him every time he touched the ball, but in the end, it was a little frustrating.
There were moments like this, of course…
Simmons himself thought it would be worse. “I thought it would be higher.” He described the experience as “amazing”.
Brooklyn heads to Toronto for a back-to-back game to avenge the disappointing loss against the 76ers. The Nets are 1-0 against the Raptors this season, and the first victory was Steve Nash’s only win before he was fired. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. EST on the YES Network.
For a different perspective on tonight’s game, head over to Liberty Ballersa sister site of the 76ers.