Sixers spoil Simmons return

Tobias Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts in front of Ben Simmons of the Brooklyn Nets in the fourth quarter of the game at the Wells Fargo Center on November 22, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Nets 115-106. Photo by Mitchell Leff / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Brooklyn’s Ben Simmons endured a defeat in his emotional National Basketball Association return to Philadelphia as a 76ers’ squad lacking three top stars humbled the Nets, 115-106.

The pre-game focus was on ex-Sixer Simmons playing his first game in Philadelphia since being traded to the Nets in February, but the shorthanded hosts — playing without injured starters Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey — stole the show.

Tobias Harris scored 18 of his 24 points after halftime, De’Anthony Melton added 22 points and Paul Reed came off the bench to add 19 points and 10 rebounds to spark the 76ers.

Shake Milton and Georges Niang each contributed 16 points.

“I just needed to get into a rhythm, and once I was able to find that flow, I just stuck with it and made the right play,” Harris said.

“That was a huge win for us.”

Sixers fans loudly booed Simmons when he was introduced and every time he touched the ball, despite being born of a bad breakup with the 26-year-old Australian after four seasons in Philly.

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

Simmons, taken by the 76ers with the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, played 32 minutes and scored 11 points, dished out 11 assists, grabbed seven rebounds, blocked three shots and made three steals.

“I thought he did a great job of just handling it and playing his game,” Nets forward Kevin Durant said.

“There are a lot of emotions. You just want to play well. You know the fans are going to be involved and get excited.”

Simmons, who made 4-of-7 shots from the floor and 3-of-6 from the free throw line, signed autographs for a few supportive fans.

“It was nice to see I had support in Philadelphia still,” Simmons said.

“I don’t think we had all the bad times.”

The Sixers outrebounded the Nets 46-35 and made 16 of 32 from three-point range, powered by Melton’s 6-for-11 and Niang’s 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc.

“We just said we’re going to need everybody’s effort and we need everybody to be as confident as ever,” Harris said.

“For us, it’s just figuring out ways to make sure everybody has that impact.”

Kyrie Irving led the Nets (8-10) with 23 points while Durant had a season-low 20.

“Just got to go through it and stay confident,” Irving said of Simmons handling the boos.

“I think he did well.

“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.”

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