Nets lose despite Simmons triple-double

Ben Simmons was back from injury and attacking the rim but his triple-double could not prevent the Brooklyn Nets suffering a third straight NBA loss without injured superstar Kevin Durant.

With fellow big gun Kyrie Irving (calf) also ruled out shortly before the game, the visiting Nets went down 106-98 to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.

Recently on the cusp of leading the eastern conference standings, the Nets (27-16) have dropped every game since Durant suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee.

Simmons did his best to step up with 10 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, four steals and two blocks.

The Australian was returning after missing a game due to back soreness.

In the game prior to that break he had split opinion with a remarkable stat line of zero points, 13 assists, nine rebounds, two steals and a block.

Simmons attempted just three shots in that game but was the only Nets player boasting a positive points differential while on the court in a comfortable loss.

Slammed by Shaquille O'Neal for "not even looking at the basket" then, Simmons was far more interested in scoring in San Antonio, creating 10 field goal attempts and making both free throws.

He opened the scoring with a driving hook after 23 seconds of action and was two-of-five after a series of spin moves and drives ended with most of his shots rolling off the rim.

The offensive void could not be filled though, the Nets now five games behind conference leaders Boston in fourth.

In Milwaukee Joe Ingles enjoyed one of his most productive NBA games since returning from a torn ACL as the Bucks again found a way to win without Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The 35-year-old Australian veteran started on the bench but played 31 minutes in a 130-122 victory over the visiting Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night.

He missed just one of five shots in a 15 point, eight assist and six rebound clinic.

With Antetokounmpo missing a fourth game due to a knee injury, Jrue Holliday (season-high 37 points, seven assists) was again the star turn.

Joel Embiid (41 points, nine rebounds) had his eighth 40-plus point game of the season as Philadelphia won on the road, 120-110 against the Los Angeles Clippers to move to outright third in the east.

And in Denver fellow MVP contender Nikola Jokic erupted with 36 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists as the Nuggets beat Portland 122-113.

That was despite a 44-point haul from Damian Lillard, who also had eight assists.