Ben Simmons recorded his first triple-double for the Brooklyn Nets despite the team falling to the San Antonio Spurs on the road on Wednesday 106-98 (all-time AEDT).
Simmons finished with an extremely complete lineup with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists to go with four steals and two blocks in 34 minutes, one of three Nets players to finish with a positive plus-minus, shooting 4-for-10. from the field and 2 of 2 from the free kick cal.
It also marked the Australian’s first triple-double since June 2, 2021 while a member of the Philadelphia 76ers and moved him 12th all-time in NBA history.
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The Nets played without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, though it was a brief stint without Simmons that lost them to the grieving Spurs before a crowd of 13,532 at the AT&T Center.
Keldon Johnson, who scored a game-high 36 points, fired up the Nets (27-16), who are 0-3 since Durant sprained his right ACL on Jan. 1. 8. Irving was ruled out shortly before kickoff with right calf pain.
That left Simmons as the last man standing of his All-Star Big 3. A dry streak in the third quarter during which Simmons was on the bench with foul trouble proved too much to handle.
TJ Warren scored 19 points off the bench to lead the Nets. Seth Curry started in place of Irving and scored a modest 16 points, with Nic Claxton and Cam Thomas each a point behind.
But when Simmons committed his fourth foul with the score tied at 58-5 with 7:47 left in the third, the Spurs quickly went on a 6-0 run.
He did not return for the remainder of the period as the streak reached 18-10. The Nets trailed 76-68 entering the fourth quarter, never getting closer than four the rest of the night.
That against pitiful San Antonio (14-31), which has put up as much defensive resistance this season as wet, single-layer fabric. It was as horrible a way to hint at a five-game tour as you could imagine.
While Durant isn’t expected to be re-evaluated until early next week, the Nets hope to have Irving back for their Friday game in Phoenix.
“He only reported a little tension. So essentially just day to day. We’ll get some treatment, we’ll get him checked out (Thursday) and hopefully this is short term,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said of Irving, who did not have an MRI and should be ready to face the Suns. “Yes I hope so. That’s definitely the hope, that after a day, he gets some treatment, hopefully he’s ready to face Phoenix, yeah.”
After the Nets got on the board first on a Simmons hook, they gave up 10 unanswered points, capped off by a three-point play by Jeremy Cochan. They trailed 27-15 after a dismal first quarter.
The Nets faced four different 14-point deficits, the last after a Tre Jones layup made it 31-17 to the Spurs with 9:56 remaining in the half.
Then the Nets temporarily settled down and finally got their offense going against one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They got 10 unanswered points led by their bench, Warren’s midrange play and Edmond Sumner’s pace. Warren capped the streak with a 16-foot pull-up off a Simmons assist, pulling the Nets within 31-27.
The deficit was still 42-38 after a Jeremy Sochan free kick. He had been harassed by Markieff Morris, from whom he had to be separated just before. But the Nets rode an 11-2 run to take the lead.
Thomas’ driving finger spin put them up 49-44 with 2:55 remaining in the half, and the score was tied 51-51 in the locker room.
It was still tied, 58-58, when Simmons went to the bench with his fourth crowd. That’s when the Spurs scored six unanswered points and the Nets were never closer than 82-78, on a 3-pointer by Curry, the rest of the night.
-This article as first published in The New York Post and reproduced with permission