NEW YORK – There has been no shortage of storylines for the 76ers. But there were plenty of subplots in Wednesday's game against the Brooklyn Nets.
JJ Redick and Jerryd Bayless were both free to return from injury. Trevor Booker was returning to Barclays Center to face his former team. And it was the first time that Brooklyn's Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas faced their former teammates since being acquired in the trade for Booker.
Yet, the big story was the Sixers losing to another struggling opponent.
The Nets prevailed, 116-108, to snap a four-game skid. They improved to 19-33 in what was their first victory over an Atlantic Division opponent in 10 tries.
The Sixers (24-24) dropped their third consecutive game. But at least their previous two losses were to playoff-caliber teams, the Milwaukee Bucks (Monday) and Oklahoma City Thunder (Sunday). This setback was no different than in lackluster losses to the struggling Sacramento Kings (twice), the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers.
"Maybe we [are] too cocky," Joel Embiid said of losing to woeful squads. "We go into the game thinking that it's going to be easy."
However, the all-star center gave the Nets a lot of credit.
"They play hard," he said. "They make a lot of threes and shot a lot of threes.
"We didn't guard them well today."
The Nets shot 40.6 percent (13 of 32) on three-pointers and 50.6 percent (39 of 77) overall from the field.
Brooklyn point guard Spencer Dinwiddie scored nine of his team-high 27 points in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, D'Angelo Russell finished with 22 points in a reserve role after missing 32 games with a left-knee injury.
Redick said the Nets were just too comfortable. He didn't think at any point they really felt the Sixers' defenders.
"And another thing is, especially early in the game, when a team is rolling like that, I think they hit 10 of their first 18 threes," he said, "I think when a team gets confidence, it's tough to sort of turn that spigot off when the water starts running."
The Sixers let Brooklyn get into a flow early on, and it was too much to stop.
The visitors lost this matchup despite huge efforts from Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Redick.
Embiid had game-highs of 29 points and 14 rebounds. He made 12 of 14 foul shots. Simmons added 24 points and seven assists. Redick finished with 20 points while making 3 of 4 three-pointers after missing the previous seven games with a cracked fibula head in his left knee.
"It held up," Redick said of his knee. "I'm sure that there will be some soreness tomorrow. I'm confident that I didn't do any further damage or anything like that. But there is going to be some soreness as I come back from this the next week or so."
Simmons looked All-Star-Game-worthy before intermission, scoring 18 of his points.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder was too big, too strong and too talented for the Nets to defend. On one of his 11 baskets, he drove the lane, reversed direction for a second before turning back around to score a layup. He also put Okafor on a poster after driving the lane and throwing down a reverse dunk.
Simmons missed the game's first shot attempt 11 seconds in before making nine straight baskets. His second miss came when Jarrett Allen blocked his 4-foot hook with 5 minutes, 22 seconds left in half.
Simmons has scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games. His 18 first-half points came on 9-for-11 shooting.
Stauskas, who finished with three points on 1-for-2 shooting, failed to have the type of performance he hoped to have against his former team. The shooting guard had averaged 13.5 points in his previous two games. However, he didn't attempt his first shot until 9 minutes, 18 seconds remained in the game. He missed that three-pointer. But he made his second attempt – another three-pointer – to give Brooklyn a 94-92 advantage with 8:51 left. That jump-started an 11-0 run to give Brooklyn a 102-92 cushion.
The Sixers were never able to regain the lead.
Okafor had eight points on 4-for-5 shooting.
The reserve center had fun playing against his former teammates.
"You get really used to being with them every day, and I haven't seen them in a month and a half to two months." Okafor said. "So it was good to see them. Obviously, we came out with a W. So that felt great."
The Sixers finished with a season-low eight turnovers.
Despite being available, Bayless (left wrist soreness) didn't leave the bench.
"That's Brett's decision," Bayless said of not playing. "I don't know. It's unfortunate, but it's his decision."