Even without certified A-listers Joel Embiid (“under the weather”), Mikal Bridges (rest) and James Harden (whatever,) tonight’s game looked like another chapter of the Brooklyn Nets’ playoff series vs the Philadelphia 76ers from this past spring. It was just a preseason contest, but Brooklyn fans were once again served up a sloppy, yet exciting game where their boys came up just short against their rivals down the Turnpike by a 127-119 final score.
But despite the loss, the second in three preseason games, there were positives. Ben Simmons showed off some “wow” factor with his passing skills, Cam Thomas continued his bucket-getting ways and both Trendon Watford and Royce O’Neale looked like solid role players.
However, the Nets are now 1-2 in preseason — 0-2 vs. NBA teams — with only one game left, on Wednesday vs. the Heat.
Brooklyn started this one with their shoe laces seemingly tied together, surrendering an early 12-0 lead to the visiting Sixers. They started down on the boards 6-0, too, really bringing back an ugly staple from last year’s series.
Aside from that, it was Brooklyn’s turnovers that dug them deep. The Nets gave it away in three of their first four possessions to set up Philly nicely. Their lone “clean” trip down the floor to begin the game ended with a blocked mid-range fadeaway attempt from Cam Thomas. That was only a appetizer of what was to come, as the Nets went on to give away the rock a whopping 27 times.
Brooklyn ended up finishing the first period down 34-21 and eight ugly turnovers at that point. On the bright side, it was only a preseason game. Outside of that, Day’Ron Sharpe returned to action after twisting his ankle just a few second into Brooklyn’s first preseason game vs the Lakers.
From our view, Sharpe’s ankle looked greased up and ready to go. He put it to the test often, making aggressive cuts to the basket throughout both with and without the ball. He finished the game with nine points, 10 boards, and an assist.
Jacque Vaughn voiced his excitement to see Sharpe back on the floor pregame in accordance with Brooklyn’s apparent decision to play more drop defense this year.
“Welcome to the new NBA, chasing around little guards, they’re not going away,” said Vaughn when asked about Brooklyn playing more to Sharpe’s strengths. “He’s [Sharpe’s] had a good camp overall. So he’s been able to help us both ends of the floor. We’ve adjusted like the way you said to allow him to get minutes and hopefully be a positive factor for us and now he’s just gotta do it on the floor.”
Sharpe helped weather the storm, but it wasn’t until Nic Claxton checked back in during the second period when Brooklyn started to get some juice on offense. Lonnie Walker IV and Spencer Dinwiddie started to get some inside penetration and Brooklyn’s offense opened up. The Nets did well to find cutters on with the freed space, which often included Claxton.
The defensive star even created a few looks for himself during the burst, at one point beating Paul Reed to the basket for a dunk following a hesitation dribble near the top of the key. Soon after, he followed that up with a circus shot after spinning around his defender for the finish.
“I think it should be a part of the offense, I’m pretty good at it,” said Claxton when asked about his hesi play. “Bigs a lot of times they can’t move their feet pretty well. It just adds more continuity to our offense when things get stagnant.”
However, his efforts did little to cut into Philly’s lead, as Brooklyn continued to give up transition points as both teams blazed into halftime. The Sixers boasted a 68-51 lead at the break. On the contrary, Brooklyn owned 18 turnovers and 13 opponent transition points at that point. Kelly Oubre Jr. saw his opportunity at the end of the period, dribbling right down the floor and burying a top of the key three right at the buzzer.
Unlike either of Brooklyn’s first two games, Brooklyn started the second half with their original starting five back out on the floor. Although their first offensive possession ended with, you guessed it, a turnover, they did come back the second time down and swing the rock for a wide open Dorian Finney-Smith triple.
Finney-Smith struggled from deep after coming to Brooklyn last year and has spoken on the topic before. He even underwent surgery to straighten the pinkie finger on his shooting hand. Any and all progress from DFS in the 3-point department has to be seen as win both for Brooklyn’s offense ... and Finney-Smith’s confidence. He went on to hit two more triples that period and finished the game shooting 3-of-5 from downtown.
On the subject of confidence, Simmons also hit a fadeaway jumper from around the free throw line a few plays after that. Ben10 pulled off a similar shot a few days ago in his previous game. This one felt a bit more impressive though. This one being against an actual NBA defense.
With help from Finney-Smith, Simmons also created a significant amount of 3-point looks for the Nets during the third. Thomas also nailed two from deep, finding good looks via Simmons’ paint penetration and world-class court vision.
That stretch allowed Brooklyn to cut the lead to 13 entering the fourth and would catapult the Nets into an exciting finish down the stretch. Simmons and Dinwiddie stayed out to start the fourth, putting on a show and then some. The Nets were also helped by Tyrese Maxey leaving the game after a hard fall. He did not return.
Even with Sixer starter Tobias Harris staying put on the floor, the Nets tightened things up on defense to begin the fourth. That, paired with a sequence that involved a slick Simmons pass to a Dinwiddie three, then a Simmons steal-and-slam on the next play had the building rocking. Well, as much as it could be for a preseason contest...
“That’s just instinct,” said Simmons. “Probably the easiest pass I had all night.” His instincts also worked on the defensive side...
Ben Simmons is everywhere!! pic.twitter.com/17EacilZwI— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) October 17, 2023
With 7:35 to play, Brooklyn had cut the Philly lead to seven, trailing 106-99. Vaughn let Simmons and co. run for a few more sequences after that, but then remembered what time of the year it was and unloaded his bench. Nick Nurse soon did the same.
Still, two-way shootist Armoni Brooks came off the bench and hit a big three to make it a 110-104 game with a little over four minutes to play. He did the same thing with just under two minutes to play to again cut the Sixer lead to six, but Philly’s bench mob also came to life. Terquavion Smith and Javonte Smart hit timely threes down the stretch, and Philadelphia was eventually able to squeak out with their first win of the preseason.
Kelly Oubre led all Sixers with 21 points, albeit a 9-of-24 shooting performance. Harris and Reed also turned in solid outings on limited burn, adding 18 points each.
But as it’s been all offseason for Brooklyn, the main focus of tonight was Simmons’ health. For a third game now he looked solid. It was not exactly a clean outing for Simmons however, who contributed to Brooklyn’s landfill of turnovers tonight with eight.
Vaughn attributed Simmons’ turnovers to the Nets learning to play with him and adjusting.
You’ll live with that in a preseason game though, especially with Simmons coming through with arguably his best game as a shot creator so far this fall. He finished with eight points, nine dimes, five boards, and three steals.
As for Brooklyn’s other star, it was a bit of a surprise to see Bridges off the court tonight even with his Phillies hoping for another trip to the World Series. Bridges rest day doesn’t effect his consecutive game streak, now at 392 regular season games. He also missed preseason games to an elbow injury his rookie year.
When asked about resting players, Vaughn told NetsDaily Saturday that he wanted to lean in the direction of playing his guys when dealing with the rest vs. rust dynamic.
“We’re actually trying to go the other way,” said Vaughn. “It’s a rhythm, trying to get a lot of combinations out there. It’s hard to do it if they don’t play. So in my ideal world, I’ll have a conversation with those guys but we want them to play these two games.”
Regardless, Bridges got the day off, leaving a slew of other to pick up his minutes. Picking up some of them was O’Neale, who quietly enjoyed another positive preseason outing. He and Thomas led the Nets in scoring at halftime before the team started featuring mainly their deep bench guys. O’Neale also finished the game 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.
It was also a relatively quiet night for Spencer Dinwiddie aside from his big three. The tech guy with a jumper added five points, seven assists and two rebounds. Vaughn left him and Simmons the most minutes tonight which became tricky at times.
“We had segments of the game where we had both of those guys in together and we had them running, being the lead guard at separate times, so we’ll continue to experiment with that,” said Vaughn. “A big piece of that is having the right people around. Tonight we wanted to play Lonnie, Cam, and Wat, and Baz, and see what that looks like, and that’s without Cam Johnson and Mikal. We have to have them play together. That’s just part of it and we also have to grow with them playing separately as well.”
“I’ve been going against Spence for a while,” Simmons later added. “It’s a great opportunity to play with him now. I respect him a lot. I love his game. I think he’s a great leader. We gotta figure it out. I trust him having the ball also, I love to be able to set picks for him and make plays off that.
Claxton commented on the Nets working out the kinks now rather than later as well.
“If there’s a time to figure these things out it’s now in the preseason,” he said. “But also it’s a fine line. You want to be sharp, we only have one more preseason game. So I think Miami on Wednesday is a pretty big game for us as far as just being sharp in our principles.”
After the game, Vaughn chose to keep on the bright side after the game, viewing the team’s deficiencies as a necessary test for what’s to come.
“This is great,” said Vaughn. “It was a great game for us. Of course to have a preseason game, a physical, aggressive team, where you need to be decisive with the basketball, you need to take the opportunities when they come. We didn’t do that. So great lesson for us”
“It’s good for us cause we needed that,” said Simmons. “We needed to know what that pressure felt like. You know it’s a new team, and they came out from the start of the game playing like that so that allows us to know this is a level we gotta play at if we want to be a playoff team.”
Personally, Simmons said he planned to show the game just what he can do..
“That’s what it’s all about. I’m gonna come out here and play hard, put some people on the floor and let ‘em know I’m back,” he said post-game.
Simmons also got a bit of a surprise himself pre-game when he met with fans, one of whom showed just how big a fan he is...
The game offered a bit more heat than your typical preseason affair as well. Four technical fouls were handed out, two of which went to the CEO of technicals Patrick Beverley, leading to his ejection in the fourth period...
Patrick Beverley ejection from Sixers-Nets preseason— Oh no he didn't (@ohnohedidnt24) October 17, 2023
Nic Claxton; Ben Simmons pic.twitter.com/Rgy3r1JFgn
Simmons and Philly’s Filip Petrusev also traded T’s early in the fourth after a brief scuffle, but not much else came from that.
Mr. Whammy returns
His wife of 66 years, Judy Reznick, passed away in September, but Bruce Reznick, Mr. Whammy was under the basket Monday, a handmade sign by his side and a hex at this fingertips...
Among those offering their condolences to Mr. Whammy, Ben Simmons and Nic Claxton...
May her memory be a blessing for Bruce and all of us.
Even as a few other notable Nets returned to action tonight, Dennis Smith Jr. remained out, as did starting forward Cam Johnson, who tweaked his hamstring a few days before the preseason tipped. Smith Jr. was seen wearing a walking boot at Brooklyn’s Practice in the Park this weekend, but it was reported that he has no ligament damage in his leg. He’ll be re-examined next week.
Sean Marks talks to Brooklyn Brigade
As he does every year, Sean Marks visited pre-game with the Brooklyn Brigade, offering them encouragement and some inside information...
Sean Marks talking to the BK Block about this season pic.twitter.com/mJSpm69aSv— Pdouble (@Pdubb315) October 17, 2023
Brooklyn’s final preseason bout will take them to South Beach for a sparing match with the Miami Heat. Miami is 1-2 thus far during the preseason.
Miami superstar Jimmy Butler has yet to suit up for a preseason game. With the upcoming matchup also being Miami’s final tune up opportunity before the regular season tips, whether or not Brooklyn gets a season preview of Jimmy Buckets will be something to keep an eye out for. The same can be said for Johnson and the Nets.
There will be a bit of a conflict Wednesday night. The Nets preseason game vs. the Heat starts at 7:30 p.m. in Miami. A half-hour, the Liberty will take to the court at Barclays for Game 4 of the WNBA Finals. Lots of channel switching between YES where the Nets will air and ESPN, home of the Finals.
- Box Score: Philadelphia 76ers 127, Brooklyn Nets 119 - NBA
- Game Highlights: Philadelphia 76ers 127, Brooklyn Nets 119 (Video) - NBA
- Highlights: Ben Simmons / 6 points, 9 assists (Video) - NBA
- Nets can’t overcome staggering sloppiness in preseason loss to 76ers - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Day’Ron Sharpe takes next step in case for more Nets minutes: ‘Lot more comfortable’ - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Harry Giles hopes for spot on Nets’ final roster - Evan Barnes - Newsday
- Ben Simmons flashes playmaking but commits 8 turnovers in Nets’ sloppy preseason loss to 76ers - Peter Sblendorio - New York Daily News
- Nets Notebook: Nic Claxon, Day’Ron Sharpe return from injuries vs. 76ers; Mikal Bridges gets rare rest - Peter Sblendorio - New York Daily News