Entering Thursday’s game against the Boston Celtics, the Brooklyn Nets were one of the NBA’s hottest teams. After a 12-game winning streak was snapped, Brooklyn got right back on the horse, winning its next two games. But in their most recent game, Kevin Durant sustained an injury that will sideline him for several weeks. In Durant’s absence, could the team’s other stars — specifically Ben Simmons — take on more of an offensive role? One game in, things are unclear.
The Nets lost, 109-88. In some respects, Simmons had a fantastic game in defeat. He dished out 13 assists, hauled in nine rebounds, recorded two blocked shots and had one steal. On the other hand, Simmons went 0-for-3 from the field, finishing with no points.
Simmons’ performance drew a mixed response.
Matt Brooks for Nets Daily and former Nets reporter Billy Reinhardt both lauded Simmons’ play during the game.
“Ben Simmons has been terrific,” Brooks said.
“Ben Simmons is playing a near perfect game without scoring,” Reinhardt noted.
Ben Simmons has been terrific
— Matt Brooks (@MattBrooksNBA) January 13, 2023
Ben Simmons is playing a near perfect game without scoring.
— Billy Reinhardt (@BillyReinhardt) January 13, 2023
But while scoring isn’t the only metric used to judge a player’s performance, it is hard to overlook a player scoring no points and only attempting three shots. This is especially true in a game his team lost. It’s even harder to overlook, given that the Nets were held under 100 points. This was only the sixth time that had happened all season and the first since December 4, Brooklyn’s final loss before starting its 12-game winning streak.
Durant’s scoring will be hard to make up. But if there was any hope that Simmons might pick up some of that slack in Durant’s absence, his performance on Thursday indicated that it wasn’t likely.
“Ben Simmons really stepped up in Kevin Durant’s absence, scoring 0 points on 0-3 shooting,” one fan sarcastically tweeted, along with a video of Simmons passing the ball out of bounds instead of taking a layup.
Nets Podcaster Jac Manuell tweeted a video of two players in a pick-up game, constantly back-and-forth instead of taking open shots with the caption “Ben Simmons against Boston.”
Even before the game, Andrew Perloff of the Maggie and Perloff Show on CBS Sports Radio and Sirius XM noted that even in the team’s layup line, Simmons wasn’t shooting. “Noticed in TNT pregame that the Nets recreate real-game situations with Ben Simmons not shooting in the lay-up line.”
Ben Simmons really stepped up in Kevin Durant’s absence, scoring 0 points on 0-3 shooting 🔥 pic.twitter.com/RjsGzZiw7N
— Jon Asaad (@jaynbablog) January 13, 2023
Ben Simmons against Boston pic.twitter.com/M31Ljn1SHt
— Jac Manuell (@JacManuell) January 13, 2023
Noticed in TNT pregame that the Nets recreate real-game situations with Ben Simmons not shooting in the lay-up line. pic.twitter.com/ImoCV7OJOQ
— Andrew Perloff (@andrewperloff) January 13, 2023
Simmons has never been a great scorer. He’s certainly not going to pick up all of the points that would normally be scored by Durant. But Simmons should be able to get more shots attempted. And while he’s not a great outside shooter, at 6-foot-10, a lot can come in the paint. If the Nets are going to continue winning with Durant out, Simmons will need to be much better.