Ben Simmons’ lack of rim pressure underscores Nets loss to Heat, 109-80 – The Denver Post


Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry is 6 feet flat. Nets star Ben Simmons is 6-foot-10.

But when Simmons had Lowry one-on-one in the high post with a clear height advantage in the third quarter of Thursday night’s matchup, he tossed the ball out to the perimeter to his teammate, Kevin Durant.

And when Durant did what any good teammate would do – get the ball back to the man with the mismatch – Simmons posted up Lowry, took one dribble and kicked the ball back out to the perimeter.

O’Neale missed the lightly contested three.

Thursday night’s matchup between the Nets and Heat was only the second of four preseason games — and it was a game both Kyrie Irving (paternal leave) and Joe Harris (ankle maintenance) watched from the sidelines — but the 109-80 loss to a shorthanded conference rival underscored a glaring area for concern the Nets will need to address if they’re positioning themselves for a long playoff run.

Simmons does not have much of an inclination to attack the basket.

It’s responsible to keep in mind that Thursday night marked just Simmons’ second game after 480 days away from NBA basketball. It marked just his second game after offseason back surgery, and just his second game with new teammates, with newly installed systems on both offense and defense.

It’s also responsible to keep in mind that the offense had much more pop Monday night with a fully healthy starting five that featured both Irving and Harris against Simmons’ former 76ers team.

But while Simmons and his lack of a jumper have been much the topic of conversation, it’s Simmons’ lack of an inclination to put pressure on the rim that was a concern. After all, it’s putting pressure on the rim that forces an opposing defense to contract, and when the defense contracts, Simmons’ playmaking skills — coupled with the Nets’ perimeter shooters — can be lethal.

If Simmons isn’t going to attack the rim, however, and he’s not a threat from anywhere remotely close to the three-point line, the Nets are almost playing four-on-five basketball. Against an elite defensive team like the Heat, that was Brooklyn’s undoing on the offensive end Thursday night.

Simmons may have tallied more assists had his teammates converted on some of their open looks. On one play, for example, Simmons rifled a one-handed pass in transition to a streaking Durant, who pulled up on the fastbreak for his trademark, in-stride three.

The shot didn’t drop, but there’s loads of historical evidence proving it will drop at many junctures this season. The sequence was proof that if the Nets stick with it through what Nash described as a period that’s “going to be ugly at times,” there’s potential for a dynamic offense given all of Brooklyn’s weapons.

But Simmons also passed up on possessions which were advantageous for him to score. On another possession, with his back to the basket on the baseline, he threw an over-the-head dump-off pass to a teammate cutting next to him. The pass was tipped away and intercepted.

The pass was predictable because Simmons didn’t — and doesn’t — look to score. He turned the ball over six times to only four assists in 25 minutes through the first three quarters before head coach Steve Nash benched the starters and key reserves for the final stretch of the game. Some of the turnovers were telegraphed passes from a player not looking to score.

And such is the state of affairs for the Nets, because this is who Simmons is as a player. He is one of the most physically gifted players in all of basketball — a near seven-footer with supreme athleticism, physique and playmaking skills — but his reluctance to attack the basket often bails out opposing defenses.

Durant finished with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor but showed some frustration when he accidentally threw the ball away attempting to get the ball to O’Neale, kicking off a Heat fast break and putting them on the line.

Nash warned things would look ugly early as the Nets adjust to both new rotations and new schemes, and ugly described their loss to the Heat on Thursday. It’s only preseason, but the same can be said for the two other Eastern Conference contenders who have blown the cap off the Barclays Center.

Next up: five more days of training camp before traveling to Milwaukee to face Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks on Oct. 12.



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