Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Tatum, Sixers, Brunson

On Thursday, in their first game since Kevin Durant injured his knee, the Nets fell to Boston by a score of 109-98. In some ways, Ben Simmons was the most effective player on the court for the Nets, racking up 13 assists and nine rebounds while being the only Brooklyn player to register a positive on-court rating (plus-10). However, he also went scoreless on the night, attempting just three field goals.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Simmons admitted he was probably looking to pass too often, acknowledging that he needs to make it more of a priority to “get myself going,” per Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“Being assertive, being aggressive and knowing that my team needs that,” Simmons said when asked what his team needs from him while Durant is out. “I think I’m giving the ball up way too many times when I know who I am, I know I need to get to the rim, get buckets. And that’s also going to help my teammates get them going.”

Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn, who is another one of just 18 players in NBA history to hand out at least 13 assists in a game without scoring a point, wasn’t bothered by Simmons’ performance, suggesting that the team needs him to compensate for Durant’s absence more on the other end of the court.

“My thing is going to be on the defensive end with Ben, the impact that he has to have without Kevin on the floor,” Vaughn said. “… Ben’s got to be able to protect the rim. Ben’s got to be able to be a force for us on the defensive end of the floor, so that we can play small, play three guards out there, so we can have shooting around.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Jaylen Brown isn’t the only Celtics star battling an injury — forward Jayson Tatum is dealing with issues affecting his thumb, ring finger, and wrist, but says he intends to continue playing through those ailments, per Jay King of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • In his latest mailbag for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Keith Pompey explores a handful of Sixers-related topics, including the team’s biggest need at the trade deadline and whether De’Anthony Melton could replace P.J. Tucker in the starting lineup. Pompey believes Philadelphia could use a reliable backup point guard and a big, physical center to back up Joel Embiid, and says he doesn’t expect Tucker to be removed from the starting five.
  • Jalen Brunson has only been with the Knicks for about six months, but it’s clear that they’re already his team, according to Ian O’Connor of The New York Post, who says Brunson is the best player on the roster and “it isn’t close.” The point guard has been at his best since returning from a recent three-game injury absence, averaging 33.3 PPG on .522/.500/.809 shooting in his last six contests, five of which were Knicks wins.
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