The Brooklyn Nets’ message had always been simple — just give Ben Simmons time.
It hadn’t always been that easy, however, with Kyrie Irving being suspended and Brooklyn desperately needing old Simmons to show up.
But after Irving was back in the lineup Monday, Simmons put on his best performance as a net, scoring 22 points in a 127-115 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
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The Aussie also had five assists and eight rebounds to make a difference at either end of the court and prove just how valuable he can be in Brooklyn’s potential title shot.
Kevin Durant was outstanding as always with a team-high 26 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, and Irving — after an eight-game suspension without pay — had 14 points and five boards.
But it was Simmons who actually led the way for the Nets (8-9), who had a season-high 32 assists and averaged 60.2 percent.
With starting center Nic Claxton out for personal reasons, Simmons started in the pivot against Steven Adams and outplayed the bruiser.
It was Simmons’ first launch since October 29. He had been banned from the bench by Jacque Vaughn for his last five appearances and missed five more games with a swollen left knee. Considering he’s in the middle year of a five-year deal, getting him right is paramount.
But since enduring last Sunday’s loss to the Lakers, Simmons has had his best games of the season in three straight games. He’d given Nets fans a glimmer in Sacramento, a tease in Portland, and he finally looked like his former All-Star self for the first time on Sunday against the weary Grizzlies.
In a game that included six draws and 13 lead changes, Brooklyn trailed 67-62 on a Dillon Brooks 3 but used an 8-0 run – all from Durant and Irving – to take the lead. You never chased me again.
Memphis played without Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson and backup Danny Green. But the networks take any profit they can get.
It was perfect timing for Simmons, who is now preparing to face off against former teammates in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Durant dominates in Net’s thrilling win | 01:03
“In Philly? Come on, I know what’s coming,” he laughed when asked if it had been enough time for Sixers fans to be less vocal about their feelings about the game.
“One thing about Philly fans is amazing. You are die-hard Philly.”
But if Simmons plays like he did on Monday, he’ll almost certainly have the last laugh.
The Nets beat the Grizzlies 39-31 in the third quarter – their highest score of the season – and took a 96-93 lead.
Brooklyn led 94-93 by 34.9 seconds in the third and reeled off a 20-5 run that extended through the periods and ended the game.
Simmons shoved the ball and hit Yuta Watanabe (16 points) for a 3 right corner and a 109-98 lead with 7:51 left. Watanabe hit another and Durant’s Alley Oop made it 114-98. The rest was garbage time.
– with the New York Post