The Brooklyn Nets blew out the Philadelphia 76ers in Ben Simmons return to Philly on Thursday. By the time the game was over the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was how poorly James Harden played and how good the Nets can be when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are both on the court. Here's a roundup of the most high-profile takes from around sports media.
Inside the NBA
The TNT studio crew got the first crack at breaking down the Nets - Sixers game. While the highlights devolved into a conversation about attractive cartoon characters from the 1960's, the breakdown was much more serious. Shaquille O'Neal went right after James Harden for not showing up in a big game. Charles Barkley doubled down saying that Harden's reputation won't change until he does. Kenny Smith pointed out something that Kevin Durant said during his postgame interview about the Sixers not giving second and third efforts, which is a sign that Philadelphia may not be a real championship team.
First Things First
Chris Broussard said this game showed the Nets have a heart and mental toughness that no one has given them credit for. Antoine Walker thinks that the Nets will be a force for three or four years once Kyrie Irving gets past the vaccination issue. Nick Wright was not convinced, pointing out they're still the 8-seed.
Zach Lowe said the Nets had, "No pop, no zip, no nothing." Monica McNutt was concerned about James Harden's competitiveness and also hammered his record in big games.
Kendrick Perkins didn't want to overreact, but said that the Ben Simmons situation may have been the thing that brought the team together.
Perk then went on First Take to say that Embiid and Harden are still the best duo in the NBA.
Shannon Sharpe compared James Harden to Matthew Stafford, saying that Harden has a chance to change his narrative this season. Skip disputed this, saying Harden had many opportunities to play well in big moments, saying he was supremely talented, but mentally weak.
David Murphy recapped the letdown from the home team, agreeing with James Harden that the loss was good in that it forces Philly to address some issues they have, especially if a playoff series with the Nets is in their future.
The city of Philadelphia had waited five months for Ben Simmons to show up for a game, longer if you count last postseason. The gate receipts go to the villains as much as they do the heroes, and the paying customers were not unjustified in their desire to get a few things off their chest. They’d bought the right to unburden themselves, and unburden themselves they did. At the end of the day, though, the whole reason to care about any of it in the first place was the basketball. And it sometimes felt as if everybody was forgetting that there was an important game to be played.
Fox Sports Radio
Jason McIntyre (remember him?) continued to plant his flag in the take that Joel Embiid and James Harden are remarkable against lesser teams yet will struggle against elite competition.
The early-morning hours were buzzing on ESPN Radio as Jay Williams came into work fired up about watching a regular-season game with some real juice and distaste in the mix. Keyshawn Johnson noticed a different, more aggressive Kevin Durant.
Joy Taylor sat in for Colin Cowherd on Friday and opened the show discussing the game. Having watched "The Batman" Thursday night, Taylor said she loved when villains were able to thrive. She also claimed that the matchup gives the NBA a real rivalry for fans to get emotionally invested in.
Defector's Dan McQuade broke down the game from the perspective of a Philly sports fan. McQuade predicted the Nets would hammer the Sixers. And he was correct.
I was right, as it turned out, if not entirely in the way I expected. The Nets absolutely slaughtered the Sixers, 129-100, in a game where backups played the fourth quarter. The Sixers never led. They were never in the game. Fans showed up to boo Ben Simmons and ended up booing the Sixers; it was the team’s first loss with James Harden playing. It was almost as if the Nets were trying to prove they were the team to beat in the East this season. Well, it worked on some people. “Tonight the Nets proved that they are the team to beat in the East with their blowout victory over the Sixers!” Magic Johnson wrote.