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Philadelphia 76ers fans greeted Ben Simmons with the expected boos at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, and the Brooklyn Nets were unable to quiet them during a stunning 115-106 loss.
“The crowd’s not going anywhere,” Kyrie Irving told reporters when discussing the reaction to Simmons. “It’s good to hear their loud voices, hear their boos. Next time hopefully that motivates us to go out there and get that win a little bit more.”
It seemed like the Nets wouldn’t even need much motivation to come away with a win considering Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey were all sidelined by injuries. Matisse Thybulle was also ruled out with an ankle injury, and Tobias Harris temporarily went to the locker room with his own ankle concerns.
Brooklyn had Irving, Simmons and Kevin Durant as its newest version of a Big Three but was still outplayed by the role players on the 76ers.
Harris (24 points and six rebounds), De’Anthony Melton (22 points, four assists and three steals) and Shake Milton (16 points, six rebounds and five assists) spearheaded the efforts from the starting lineup, while Paul Reed (19 points and 10 rebounds) and Georges Niang (16 points, five rebounds and 4-of-5 from three-point range) anchored a strong showing from the bench.
Yet the biggest storyline for this game was always going to be the reaction to Simmons.
The 76ers selected him with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 NBA draft and looked to make him a franchise cornerstone alongside Embiid. While he was a three-time All-Star during his time with the team, his offensive shortcomings were one reason Philadelphia never made it past the second round when he was paired with the big man.
He was traded to the Nets last season but was sidelined when Brooklyn visited Philadelphia.
That didn’t stop the crowd from loudly booing him when he was on the bench, but there was a different feel to it when he was actually on the court Tuesday. To Simmons’ credit, he played well and posted a double-double of 11 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, three steals and three blocks.
However, it wasn’t enough to come away with a road win.
As Irving said, the crowd will still be there next time when the Nets visit Philadelphia on Jan. 25.