Sixers earn last laugh over happy Simmons

Ben Simmons has shown poise to shrug and smile through the boos and flirt with a triple-double in his NBA return to Philadelphia.

But it was the 76ers, missing three of their biggest names, who had the last laugh in a 115-106 win over Brooklyn.

The Australian finished with 11 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

But he didn't add to his haul in a fourth quarter dominated by the home side.

Injured trio James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid were all missing for Philadelphia but Tobias Harris (24 points), Paul Reed (19 points, 10 rebounds), De'Anthony Melton (22 points) and a fiery Georges Niang (16 points) stepped up.

It was Simmons' first appearance at Wells Fargo Centre since his inglorious departure to Brooklyn midway through last season.

He had requested a trade after copping ridicule for the side's weak 2021 finals exit, Simmons' reluctance to shoot the ball and poor free throw percentage a lightning rod for fans seeking someone to blame.

Voracious boos and chants from the famously parochial Sixers crowd welcomed him onto court and whenever he had the ball.

But Simmons, who has struggled with mental health issues, almost seemed to enjoy it.

"I thought it was going to be louder," Simmons, who spent time pre-game in the stands signing autographs for rusted-on fans, said.

"I feel like I'm in a good place. I'm happy. I do what I love. To be out there and having that experience was amazing."

He had three assists inside 90 seconds, then smiled wryly and shrugged his shoulders after ironically making both of his first two free throws.

A few short-lived, "F*** Ben Simmons!" chants were followed by ecstatic cheers when the man of the moment missed both free throws in the second half, triggering a free chicken promotion.

Simmons stood tall for a block then slammed down the one-hand jam and traded words with Niang after he drew a flagrant foul for an innocuous elbow to the stomach.

A steal then desperate dive got the ball to Kevin Durant (20 points) for an easy two points and it was a three-point game with one quarter to play.

But Harris took charge in the final period; the Nets falling to 8-10, the 76ers up to 9-8 with the highly-anticipated match-up between Simmons and Embiid placed on hold.

"I thought he was in attack mode, he was aggressive, showed a lot of poise through the course of the night," coach Jacque Vaughn said.

"The experience to get through and get it behind him, really good."

Simmons hugged his former coach Doc Rivers in the handshake line and met with friends and family sitting on the baseline before heading for the visitors' tunnel and copping one final chorus of boos.

"I think it's going to be like this forever," Simmons said. "I really don't see it changing."