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Sixers spoil Simmons’ return to Philly

Nets guard booed throughout 115-106 loss to former team

November 23, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Ben Simmons admitted that he couldn’t wait to face his former teammates in Philadelphia Tuesday night.

Playing before a vociferous and profane crowd was another matter for the Brooklyn Nets’ versatile playmaker.

Simmons scored 11 points, handed out 11 assists and grabbed seven rebounds while being booed throughout Brooklyn’s 115-106 loss to the 76ers in front of 20,184 fans at the Wells Fargo Center.

“I thought it was going to be louder,” Simmons admitted.

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His much-anticipated return to the City of Brotherly Love was buoyed by the fact that Simmons had his best game as a Net in Sunday’s victory over Memphis at Barclays Center, where he finished with 22 points on 11-of-13 shooting to go with eight rebounds and five assists.

The former four-time All-Star in Philadelphia, who sat out all of last season with mental health issues and a herniated disk, didn’t have to deal with Sixers superstar Joel Embiid (foot) and James Harden (tendon strain), the player Simmons was traded for last February.

The 76ers were ready and waiting for former teammate Ben Simmons Tuesday night in the City of Brotherly Love. AP Photo by Matt Slocum

But none of that mattered on a night the Sixers (9-8) found a way to win without their superstar tandem.

Simmons, clearly drawing the crowd’s interest with every touch of the ball, drew a flagrant foul and got a tremendous roar from Philly fans when he misfired on a pair of second-half free throws.

“I thought he was in attack mode, he was aggressive, showed a lot of poise through the course of the night,” Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said of Simmons. “The experience to get through and get it behind him, really good.”

The expletive-filled chants and steady booing couldn’t prevent Simmons from playing a solid game, however.

He went 4-of-7 from the field, picked up three steals and blocked a trio of shots for the Nets (8-10), who were denied their first three-game winning streak of the year.

“I feel like I’m in a good place,” Simmons noted. “I’m happy. I do what I love. To be out there and having that experience was amazing.”

Brooklyn’s superstar tandem of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined or 43 points, but the short-handed Sixers got 24 from Tobias Harris 22 by De’Anthony Melton for their fourth win in five games.

“I feel like this is a huge win for us,” said Harris. “I knew going into the game we were all going to come out with this type of energy and this type of buzz to get up to play.”

Irving, playing in his second straight game after sitting out eight in a row while serving a suspension for posting a link to an antisemitic book and documentary, has also been the subject of ire, both at home and now on the road.

“Everybody wants to see our team fail,” Durant said. “Nobody likes Ben. Nobody likes Ky. Nobody likes myself.”

Former Sixer Seth Curry scored 14 points off the bench, Nic Claxton added 12 and Royce O’Neale had 11 for the Nets, who will resume their three-game road trip Wednesday night in Toronto.

As for Philadelphia, it was not such a nice place for Simmons to revisit Wednesday night.

“I think it’s going to be like this forever,” Simmons said of his first NBA home. “I really don’t see it changing.”

Playing his second game since the lifting of his team-imposed suspension, Kyrie Irving scored a team-high 23 points for Brooklyn Tuesday. AP Photo by Matt Slocum

NOTHING BUT NET: After visiting the Raptors Wednesday, the Nets will conclude their trip Friday night at Indiana. Brooklyn will return to Barclays Center on Sunday to open a season-high seven-game homestand vs. Portland. … The Nets fell to 4-6 on the road this season.

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