The Nets lose Game 1 to the Pelicans, 130-108, when Ben Simmons fouls out with 4 points

Things didn’t go as planned. The Brooklyn Nets were defeated in the season opener, 130-108, by the New Orleans Pelicans despite Kevin Durant’s 32 points on just 21 shots.

“I talked about it the other day, just being tested and challenged,” Kyrie Irving said after the loss. “And this is going to be a familiar theme throughout the year, and it’s constantly playing with a competitive spirit without us talking about it all the time. And I don’t want to sit in this seat after every game saying, ‘We should have done this, we should have done that.’ Like, this is a grown men’s league and the most physical team wins.”

Meanwhile, the Pelicans’ big three — CJ McCollum, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram — stole the show, racking up a combined 74 points en route to a landslide victory.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn got just a combined 17 points from Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving. Simmons was particularly disappointing, recording more fouls (6) than points (4) in his Nets debut.

“I was just too excited, honestly,” Simmons said of drawing fouls in his debut. “But it was great to be there. The first game obviously you want to win. But we know the reasons why we lost, there are multiple reasons why we lost. And those are things we can fix. We know it’s not us as a team. I think there’s a lot of nervousness early on, but it was good to get out of the way.”

Out of the stars (or star, really), Brooklyn got some good things from Patty Mills off the bench, who scored 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting and 4-of-9 from 3-point range. The rest of the Brooklyn bench weren’t as prolific, mustering just a combined 7 points collectively.

Rebounding was Brooklyn’s Achilles heel on Wednesday, with the Pelicans outscoring the Nets 61-39. Many of those second-chance opportunities led to 3-pointers for New Orleans, which shot 46.2% from deep. Meanwhile, Brooklyn couldn’t find any consistency from distance at just 30.3%, and the Pelicans used this against them by packing the paint and smothering Brooklyn’s top playmakers with multiple defenders.

“We’re not the biggest team, we’re not going to lead the league in rebounding,” Steve Nash said after the game. “But there is still a level of understanding that that is a weakness for us. We have talked about it every day. We have to go back, double team the crystal and flood it. That’s part of being competitive, being aware and understanding what our weaknesses are and trying to combat them early on.”

In typical Nets fashion, the onslaught got off to a slow start, as the Nets missed their first three shots. Ben Simmons broke the points drought with the Nets’ first point of the season after a Pelicans fumble. A pair of buckets by Zion Williamson at the rim forced an early timeout by Steve Nash after an early 11-2 deficit.

“You could see that, you know, obviously how physically he is and how difficult it is to stay away from the rim and the offensive glass. So it looks like he’s healthy and playing really well again,” Nash said of Zion after the game.

The lead only widened after three consecutive Nets turnovers, one by Kevin Durant dribbling through the crowd, another by Ben Simmons on a botched alley-oop and another by Royce O’Neale on a rush, increasing the lead of New Orleans at 16. .

Then three straight steals by Royce O’Neale cut that deficit to just 12, and the Pellies were forced to call timeout. Brooklyn’s wheels fell off when the Pelicans pushed their lead back to 18 to close out the first quarter.

Brooklyn got things back on track in the second quarter, starting with an excellent pass from Ben Simmons to Nic Claxton on the short turn and a corner 3-pointer from Markieff Morris. However, the Pelicans continued to rack up with both of their scorers, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, splashing jump shots into short-midrange. Meanwhile, the Nets continued to lack rhythm as their space limited half-court opportunities.

Fortunately, the Nets finished the fourth strong when Nic Claxton, the only antidote to the unstoppable force that was Zion Williamson, used his impressive 7’2″ wingspan to nail Zion’s layup to the glass, leading to Kevin Durant three at the other end.. Behind some preposterous shooting from Durant, who had 21 at the half, the Nets were able to cut the deficit to 8 to finish the half, 58-50.

Oh, and KD did this…

Both teams went back and forth to start the third quarter; Kevin Durant hit a jumper plus the foul on Williamson at one end, and CJ McCollum splashed a 3-point jumper as the Nets double-teamed Jonas Valanciunas.

Zion then took over, throwing two overwhelming layups. The Pelicans’ lead only grew when Trey Murphy III canned a deep 3-pointer and Brandon Ingram nailed a fadeaway plus foul on Kevin Durant. and so another three on an offensive rebound. Suddenly the Nets were facing a 25-point deficit with 4 minutes to spare in the third. The Nets finished the fourth down 98-78.

The fourth quarter was more of the same, with the Nets finally waving the white flag at 4:30. And that was all he wrote. A 22-point blowout loss and 0-1 start to the season with a tough opponent, the Toronto Raptors, headed to Brooklyn on Friday.

Nets not worried about Simmons’ slow start

Though Ben Simmons’ debut didn’t exactly start off on the right track, his teammates and head coach didn’t seem particularly concerned about his star.

Steve Nash attributed the 4-point performance to “rust”, citing Simmons’ 486-day layoff from regulation basketball.

I just think it’s rusty. The guy hasn’t played for over a year, he’s still getting used to the referees, the defense, the offense. This is a process,” Nash explained. “You guys have heard me say it, but obviously he’s shown glimpses of the player that we know he is and can be, but it’s not easy. We are here to support him, we are here to push him, train him and try to get him to a place where he can play at the level that he played in the past. Everything is there for him.

“I mean, I think you see those flashes throughout the preseason, but now putting it all together, really getting his legs under him, his pace and then assimilating into a new group, there’s a lot on his plate. As long as he continues to build confidence from him, playing hard and playing hard, we’re fine with him making mistakes as he grows in this.”

Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, was equally encouraging but also offered a more sullen tone. I mean, he mentioned that the Nets had a conversation with Ben in the locker room to set the bar for what’s expected of him as one of the team’s stars.

“He just has to get reps and minutes. I think it’s as simple as that,” Kyrie Irving said of what it takes for Simmons. “We told him in the dressing room, he is a valuable piece for us and we need him out there. And failure is not an option.

Kevin Durant’s response to Ben Simmons’ debut could best be described one way: no hassles.

“We don’t all have big games, it’s just the nature of our work. It’s about picking yourself up and showing up to work tomorrow and figuring it out,” Durant said, bluntly.

the movie theater

So obviously Kevin Durant was the star of the show here.

But Nic Claxton showed some flashes that we hadn’t seen before. For starters, as mentioned above, he was the only player who could reasonably tangle with Zion Williamson, who proved too overwhelming for his main defender, Ben Simmons. Though Nic Claxton doesn’t have the tough physique to hang out with Zion (does anyone?), he brings in a lot of time to extinguish windows of opportunity for the Pelicans’ star.

Nic’s block on Zion was the catalyst for the mini-run to end the first half, and you’ll notice Clax first removes the layup with Zion’s right hand before sliding to Zion’s left to sit on the spin move.

Nic’s completion through contact also showed significant improvement, a reflection of the extra size he put on this summer. Nic previously estimated that he packed on between 7 and 10 pounds of mass, and that came in handy here when he went through this finish at the hoop. Also, a penny from Cam Thomas, who continues to show moderate growth as a playmaker after some impressive times in preseason!

And then, the main course: Clax’s masterful drive and contact shot. We’ve heard about Claxton’s background as a point guard since his rookie season, and in the second quarter, he showed off that skill set. He faked the pass to Kevin Durant, drove to the cup as the defense shifted to the Nets star, and then had another incredible finish through contact to complete the play.

Claxton finished with 13 points on near-perfect shooting (6-for-7), 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal is the way to follow up a lucrative summer that saw the Nets invest $20 million in him to be their center of the future.

New video of Kyrie via Shams

Shams Charania revealed another part of his exclusive interview with Kyrie Irving.

Irving was chosen by the Nets to welcome fans before the game on Wednesday. It’s yet another sign that the Nets and Irving, despite their failed trades in the summer.

New national dates

The Nets (somewhat) surprisingly got just 13 national television games when NBA programmers revealed his work in early August. That’s half of what they had on ESPN and TNT last season. At the time, Kevin Durant’s trade request was still pending and Kyrie Irving’s status was also uncertain.

On Wednesday, the NBA rectified that situation somewhat. As Brian Lewis reported, the Nets’ home game on November 1 against Chicago will now be televised on TNT, just like their November. 15 games in Sacramento. NBATV dropped the Brooklyn tilt from Nov. 17 at Portland, but added the Nov. 13 matchup at the Lakers, the Dec. 23 matchup against Milwaukee and the Jan. 22 game at Golden State.

As SpongeBob SquarePants would say…

Whats Next

The Nets stay home for Game 2 of the regular season, hosting the pesky Toronto Raptors. Kickoff begins at 7:30 pm EST, and you can catch the game on the YES Network.

For a different perspective, head over to Raptor HQour sister site to the Toronto Raptors.

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