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Nets blown by the Pelicans in outrageous opening night loss

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There’s the bullying, and then there’s what kind of beat the Pelicans did on Wednesday night at the Nets.

There were only two good things in the Nets’ 130-108 loss: Kevin Durant had a great night and everyone got through unscathed. Other than that, it was as disastrous a season opener as the Nets could have imagined in their nightmares, as they were physically dominant at Barclays Center before 18.003.

The Nets were beaten by 36-4 on second chance points. Let this sink in and marinate before we move on to the fact that they were 61-39 behind on rebounds and stayed behind the entire game.

Ben Simmons made his long-awaited Nets debut by joining Durant and Kyrie Irving in a new Big 3. But on Wednesday, Big 1: Durant was the only one to excel, while the other two oscillated between the poor and the invisible. New Orleans and Zion Williamson.

Durant did his part by breaking the game record with 32 points and four blocks. But the rest of the Nets’ attack seemed ineffective and inefficient. They made some doable looks, but weren’t able to knock them down – they were probably too busy getting knocked out by New Orleans.

Kevin Durant
Corey Sipkin

Both Nets and Simmons said it had to be aggressive and it was the engine that got the team going.

“This team won’t go if I’m not aggressive,” Simmons said earlier. “If I don’t push the ball, if I don’t find my men, if I don’t get to the rim, then we won’t have the easy shots we’re taking right now. So I have to be the engine.”

But that engine looked understandably rusty in Simmons’ first game since June 20, 2021. He missed the entire last season with mental health issues and a herniated disc that required surgery.

Picked up for James Harden of the 76ers in February, Simmons wasn’t aggressive enough on offense and threw aggression overboard on defense. He fouled just four points in 2v3 shots (both baskets come with dunks) and added five rebounds and five assists.

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Zion Williamson dunked the ball against the Nets on Tuesday.
Corey Sipkin

Irving struggled to cast open glances. He finished with 15 points in a 19-by-6 shot, but only took four points in a 2-by-9 from the field in the first half. Until then, the Nets had been beaten and battered to set the tone.

Simmons wasn’t the only All-Star to return after missing out last season. Williamson’s return was even more brazen. The burly Pelicans star, who broke his leg in his first game since May 2021, battered the Nets with 25 points and 9 rebounds.

Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 28 points, while center Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds – six on offense.

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Ben Simmons is protecting Zion Williamson.
Corey Sipkin

Physicality has always been a concern for Nets, but games like this raise the DEFCON level.

The Nets were down by seven right on the doorstep and coach Steve Nash called a timeout with his team 11-2 behind. It didn’t help, and they were completely outdone early by New Orleans in almost every way.

The Pelicans took a 32-14 lead after the Nets’ miserable first-quarter first-quarter shootouts, nine turnovers, and 18-8 rebounds.

The Nets were bullied in the scrimmage window by Williamson and Valanciunas, while the Pelicans took an 11-0 lead on second-chance points.

With the Nets still trailing 54-40 with 2:24 left in the first half, Durant came alive with eight points, two blocks (in an Ingram dunk attempt) and a steal the rest of the way. Royce O’Neale’s refusal of his own miss to beat the bell drew the Nets within eight minutes of their way to the locker room.

This mini-momentum didn’t last long after they came back.

Simmons took the fourth and fifth fouls, and Ingram’s three-pointer cleared the Nets 82-59. Durant took the lead 87-62 with a 3-pointer, and the bloodshed came to an end as the final quarter of the third quarter showed 4:09.

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