On Tuesday night, Ben Simmons, a member of the Brooklyn Nets, made his eagerly anticipated return to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers. Since Game 7 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Semifinals, when he infamously passed up a dunk opportunity in the last seconds of what would be his final game as a member of the Sixers, Simmons hadn’t played in the city since. After that, Simmons didn’t play another game for the Sixers as he demanded a trade, which was eventually fulfilled when he was sent to Brooklyn in exchange for James Harden in February.
Simmons missed the Nets’ first game in Philadelphia after the trade that season because of injury. But this time, he was ready to perform, and the audience was ready for him. During warm-ups, boos greeted Simmons as soon as he touched the ground, and as the arena filled and spectators found their seats, the boos grew louder.
Due to the absence of the Sixers’ three greatest players, Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and Harden, this contest lacked a lot of energy. However, it didn’t appear to bother the crowd too much because they made sure to get energized when Simmons was presented.
The boos continued after the pregame introductions, but they were a little more muted than anticipated. Throughout the competition, every touch Simmons made was met with jeers. When Simmons was standing at the foul line, the din became unusually loud. Although he missed two straight attempts in the second half, he only made three of six attempts total from the line, much to the pleasure of Sixers supporters because his problems led to free chicken nuggets from Chick-fil-A thanks to an in-arena promotion.
The overall response was a little underwhelming with all the hype leading up to the game. Simmons revealed that he expected more after the game, at least indicating that he did. “I had anticipated a louder sound,”
In the past week or so, Simmons has been playing his best basketball of the season as he has begun to appear more at ease and assured on the court after missing all of last season. In hostile terrain, Simmons repeated that pattern by coming out hard to set up his teammates. In the opening period, he contributed four assists in addition to his four points, and after making two straight free throws, he even displayed an M.J.-inspired shrug.
Overall, Simmons had a passable game. In 32 minutes, he recorded 11 points, 11 assists, and 7 rebounds. The Nets could have used some production from him at that point, but he was a no-show for the remainder of the game as he failed to register a single point or assist.
The Sixers outscored the Nets 30-24 in the last period of a close game to secure an unlikely 115-106 victory. With 24 points and six rebounds, Tobias Harris led Philadelphia. De’Anthony Melton followed with 22 points and four assists. Georges Niang (16 points and 5 rebounds) and Paul Reed (19 points and 10 rebounds) both made significant contributions off the bench for Philadelphia. Additionally, to Simmons’ output. For Brooklyn, Kyrie Irving scored 23 points, and Kevin Durant chipped in with 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists.
One of the more unlikely results of the season thus far was achieved in this game, as a Sixers team without Embiid, Harden, and Maxey was able to defeat a healthy Nets team using only their own big three.