The Nets lose to the short-handed 76ers in embarrassing fashion, 115-106

Worst defeat of the season. None excluded. Not in discussion.

Facing a Philadelphia 76ers team without its three stars – James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid – a win seemed a given for the Nets.

And Brooklyn played like that. They underestimated their opponent. The Nets defense was confused throughout the game, leading to 16-of-32 threes for Philadelphia, and the Sixers beat the glass for a 49-35 lead in that category.

“It’s the same shit,” Kevin Durant said after the game. “20 more shots than us and seven more 3-pointers. This is the game”

And so, the Nets were handed their most embarrassing loss of the season and fell to 8-10 on the year with an opportunity to reach .500. Somehow, somehow, Brooklyn managed to lose to what was effectively bench Philadelphia, which ranks last in scoring per game and is 20th in net scoring.

“It’s really a mindset for us to decide that we’re going to play defense,” said Jacque Vaughn. “The amount of mistakes we made at halftime was staggering for this group. We had to cut the tape because we didn’t have enough time to show them all.”

Ben Simmons, returning to Philly as a first-time player, was one of the few bright spots for the Nets Tuesday. He recorded his second double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds and was one of the few players who showed energy and genuine passion during his homecoming in Philadelphia.

“I think he did well,” Kyrie Irving said of Simmons in his first game since being traded. “The crowd is going nowhere. It’s good to hear their loud voices, to feel their anger. Next time I hope that motivates 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. Yes, I thought he was in attack mode. He was aggressive, he showed a lot of poise throughout the night,” said the coach. “He competed on both ends. So I thought overall the experience for him that they get through and follow them is really good.

Irving had a good night of shooting with 23 points on 10-for-18 shooting, but his off-the-ball defense was particularly disappointing. (And let’s be kind.) His co-star, Kevin Durant, was equally painful defensively, and his streak of scoring 25-plus points was finally snapped (he had 20 on the night on 14 shooting).

Philadelphia was led by DeAnthony Melton (22 points), who had an incredible outing from deep, shooting 6-for-11 from deep. Tobias Harris was the leading scorer of the game with 24 points and Shake Milton (16 points) got his team over the line. Paul Reed, Embiid’s replacement, had 21 points and 10 rebounds.

After the mandatory round of boos for Simmons, Brooklyn quickly took advantage of the shorthanded Sixers, soon building an 8-2 lead. Simmons was everywhere, picking up right where he left off pushing the pace vs. Memphis and three assists up front. Kevin Durant also stepped in with some early playmaking, and the primary recipient of both players’ passing efforts was Nic Claxton, who recorded an early six points off several well-timed cuts.

Philly tried to tighten the screws by moving into the area, which initially worked. Then, the Nets solved the problem by placing Durant, the most dangerous player in the Wells Fargo Center, in center field to warp the zone. That quickly produced two buckets and an assist for Simmons.

From a Philly perspective, Montrezl Harrell pounded the glass to generate four quick rebounds and six points in just under seven minutes. The Sixers also couldn’t miss from three, nailing five of their eight long-range looks. Opponent 3-point shooting and defensive rebounds put the Nets behind 33-26 to end the first. This set a bad tone.

Brooklyn’s defense looked even worse as the second quarter began. The Sixers decimated the Nets on largely unguarded rim runs, particularly from Reed, to push their lead to 42-33 before a timeout. The Nets responded by going on a 19-10 run as the Nets started with three starts, with Seth Curry and Patty Mills each coming off the bench and shooting from distance.

Letting Philly leave early for deeply hurting the Nets, while the Sixers kept letting him rip from distance. Melton hit a three to end the half when Kyrie overhelped after kicking the ball the other way, and Philadelphia’s 10-of-19 3-point shooting through two quarters gave them a 63-57 lead.

In the third, Irving finally pulled through after a slow first six quarters of play coming back from suspension. He hit a pair of jumpers and assisted Claxton in transition to give Brooklyn its first lead of the first quarter. Then, Tobias Harris rallied after a quick trip to the locker room (he rolled his ankle to start the third). Philadelphia’s de facto lead option earned eight points in the quarter, including a pull-up two with 4 seconds left. Philly finished ahead 85-82.

The fourth quarter began and Brooklyn’s problems with rebounding once again surfaced. Reed had impact all over the court — a smooth finish on the edge of the pick-and-roll, a steal on a bad pass pass, a block against Curry, and an offensive rebound to tip — and the Sixers used his energy to build a 96-87 lead.

Filadelfia hasn’t let his foot off the pedal. Tobias Harris continued to cook, pouring six points as the Nets botched spins and screen covers. Milton took the game back, hitting a slew of jumpers over Joe Harris. Ultimately, Brooklyn’s indifference on defense and on the offensive glass doomed them to their 10th loss of the season.

The cinema hall

This was one of the worst defensive plays we’ve seen from the Nets in a long time. Maybe it dates back to last season.

Every player on the roster, aside from Ben Simmons, let the team down. Trading was soft throughout Tuesday’s entire contest, which TNT’s Stan Van Gundy commented on during the broadcast, and the Nets had a big problem with too much help.

Much of this stemmed from the top down. His two best players, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, were particularly disappointing on defense.

Kyrie’s problems were mostly off the ball. He had two big mistakes late in the clock that dropped the 76er to six points out of three. Here is the first.

This was mentioned earlier in the article, but Melton hit a big three-pointer to end the half to put his Sixers up to 6. Why? Because after Phil has pop/screen action for Reed and Georges Niang, Irving jumps at Niang for no reason, even with Kevin Durant positioned correctly to contain the action. This, of course, leaves Irving’s husband Melton open at three. A truly bizarre help.

Here in the fourth quarter, Irving is attempting to play midfield between Furkan Korkmaz and Reed while Nic Claxton shows some extra help against Tobias Harris. Things are going well initially. Harris pushes, Claxton holds before retiring from his man (Reed) and Irving is well placed against Korkmaz. Then, for no reason, he jumps slightly to bet on a steal while Korkmaz goes up on the wing for a three.

Irving’s on-ball defense was also somewhat lacking. He wasn’t good at staying ahead of his matchup coming back from suspension, and Melton blows him with ease on this possession. This forces Nic Claxton to drop into the contest, opening up a rebound opportunity for Harrell.

Kevin Durant wasn’t much better. He continued to have some awkward moments as an off-the-ball defender, a problem that started to show up in the win against Memphis. Maybe he’s showing signs of exhaustion after carrying this team on his shoulders for the first 18 games, it’s hard to say. But there’s no denying that getting dusted by Georges Strain’ Niang is brutal to digest.

Brooklyn squandered what was largely a successful return to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons because its two best players failed to show any kind of defensive commitment. That cannot happen if this team is serious about considering itself a contender, regardless of the competition.

Or as Stephen A. Smith said in his movie theater on ESPN…

Philly fans react to Simmons’ return

As Stan VanGundy said on the TNT broadcast, 76ers fans gave Ben Simmons a big “welcome” upon his return and booed him every time he touched the ball, but it ended up being a bit disappointing.

Some of the reactions were typical of a revenge game…

This being Philly, there have obviously been moments like this…

Simmons himself thought it would be worse. “I thought it would be louder,” he joked. Overall, he called the comeback experience “incredible.”

“It was nice to still have support in Philadelphia,” Simmons said. “Lifelong fans, they support me, so that was really cool to see. I think I did some things in Philadelphia that can be respected. I don’t think we’ve all had bad times…

“I feel like I’m in a good place,” Simmons added. “I am happy, I am doing what I love. So to be out there and have that experience was amazing. Obviously it was not the result we wanted. It’s frustrating to lose a match like that, but I think it’s a good step forward.”

What does love have to do with this?

When asked why he thinks so many people dislike the Nets, Kevin Durant said, “There are a lot of things that probably factor into that. But when NBA fans don’t like you, they really have love for you. It’s just misplaced love, I guess. But we understand that. At the end of the day, people enjoy watching us play.”

Whatever.

Milestone clock

When Jacque Vaughn retired his starters with three minutes left in the game, he precluded Kevin Durant’s 17-game streak of scoring 25+ points from ending. KD finished with 20 points. Of course, it was a Nets record and the longest streak to start a season since 1966-67, when Hall of Famer Rick Barry did it.

If SpongeBob could say…

What’s next

Brooklyn heads to Toronto for a back-to-back to avenge the disappointing loss to the 76ers. The Nets are 1-0 against the Raptors this season, with the opener being Steve Nash’s only win before his ejection. Coverage begins at 7:30pm EST on the YES network.

For a different perspective on tonight’s game, go to Freedom Dancersour sister site to the 76ers.

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