The turning point of the Brooklyn Nets‘ loss to the Phoenix Suns on January 19 came in the last moments of the third quarter when Ben Simmons was assessed his fifth personal foul on a moving screen. Simmons, visibly upset by the call, said something to the referee who made the call and got assessed his first technical foul. He then continued antagonizing the ref when he got to the bench, earning him his second technical, an automatic ejection. After the game, Simmons gave reporters more insight into why he was so upset with the call.
“I think you’re going to call the game like that, then you got to be consistent. I think it’s been like that all year. I think if you’re going to call it a moving pick, you got to be consistent on both ends. Same with the holding,” Simmons said via the New York Post.
“It’s tough. I’m going to be physical. I’m a 6-foot-10 guy who likes to guard certain guys. I’m going to be physical. I’m not going to tone it down because the refs don’t want to see the physicality. I’m 6-10, 240, and I’m guarding these guys. It is what it is. There’s obviously going to be certain calls you’ve got to make, but … I don’t know.”
Simmons could be in hot water for publicly criticizing the refs after the loss. Doing so can carry hefty fines. Last year, Sixers star Joel Embiid was fined $15k for doing so.
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Jacque Vaughn Expresses Disappointment in Nets’ Effort
The Nets came into their matchup with the Suns fresh off a loss to a 14-win San Antonio Spurs team. Despite being without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the contest, it was one of their more disappointing losses of the season. Now against a Suns team without two of their best players in Devin Booker and Chris Paul, in addition to Kyrie returning to the lineup, the Nets had a great opportunity to snap their losing skid.
But the Nets came out flat against the Suns, especially on defense. They allowed Phoenix to score at least 30 points in the first two quarters, putting them behind the eight ball, which contributed to their comeback effort falling short. After the loss, Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn expressed his disappointment in his team’s effort
“Yeah, really unfortunate, our start. I was really looking forward to the challenge for this group to see how we responded after a loss in San Antonio,” Vaughn said via the New York Post. “We talked about each possession having a meaning and it carries value and what you’re asked upon as a teammate to do every single possession. … We didn’t come to play at the beginning of the game, for sure.”
Kyrie echoed a sentiment similar to his coach.
“We do want to have a consistent effort that we put forth,” Irving added. “So, Jacque’s right; we put ourselves in a hole, we’re down 10, 12, we give the other team confidence and feel like they play a little bit more freely. When we started locking in and coming back, we can make anything happen. But sometimes the hole’s too big to come back from.”
Nets Approaching Familiar Territory
After losses to an undermanned Suns team and a San Antonio Spurs team that could be headed toward the draft lottery, it has become increasingly uncertain when the Nets will snap their losing skid. Especially with their next three opponents being the Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, and Philadelphia 76ers, all teams who many expect to make deep playoff runs.
When Durant went down on January 8, many of the Nets players insisted it wouldn’t be the same situation they were in last season when the star forward sprained his MCL. But to this point, it has been a repeat of the same horror story for the Nets, as they are clearly a non-contender without the services of their best player.
It seems like forever ago that the Nets were owners of the NBA’s longest winning streak this season. Clicking on all cylinders and playing inspired defense under the leadership of new coach Jacque Vaughn. But now they are seemingly fighting for their lives, trying to avoid plummeting to the bottom of the Eastern Conference the way they did last season.