Simmons stars in Nets' NBA win at Portland

Ben Simmons has produced his best performance with Brooklyn, recording his first double-double of the NBA season in a 109-107 defeat of Portland.

The beleaguered Australian missed the entire 2021-22 campaign through mental health leave and a back injury and struggled to make his mark on offence immediately after returning to the court this season.

But since sacking coach Steve Nash earlier this month, the Nets have played their 208cm-tall recruit off the bench as a back-up for starting centre Nic Claxton and the move is beginning to bear fruit.

Simmons has registered double figures for points in his last two games after failing to do so in any of his first nine, and had season-high figures in points (15) and rebounds (12) against the Trail Blazers.

"People seemed (to think) I had a sprained ankle or something, I had back surgery (earlier this year). That's not easy to come back from," Simmons said.

"I take it day by day, I stay locked in, I stay focused and continue to build myself, my body and my game."

The 26-year-old appeared confident attacking the basket from the moment he came on in the first quarter, spinning into a jump shot for two points.

Things only improved from there - Simmons backed himself to get around Portland big man Jusuf Nurkic with a crafty Eurostep, forced a Royce O'Neale inbound pass into the basket on the alley-oop and then set Kevin Durant up for a dunk with a lovely long pass.

The Blazers went into the main change ahead by four points but were only a point up when Simmons was in, compared to 10 points up with starting centre Claxton on the floor for Brooklyn. By fulltime, the Nets were 13 points better for having Simmons on the court, and 16 in arrears with Claxton.

Crucially for his confidence, Simmons sunk all of his six attempts from the field and continued to see big minutes in the second half.

Simmons was on the floor for the entirety of a 14-0 run at the end of the third quarter that gave the Nets the lead heading into the final break.

With his 10th rebound midway through the last period, Simmons had his double-double and finished three assists shy of his first triple-double since June 2021.

Kevin Durant had a typically busy night for the visitors and with a basket in the third quarter, became only the 19th NBA player in history to reach 26,000 career points.

"He really responded well, had a few combinations, with Nic, without Nic, pushing the basketball as a screener," Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said of Simmons' performance.

"If we can continue to grow with him and understand him, his game, how he benefits, with who, it's very encouraging."

Elsewhere, Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox combined for 54 points as Sacramento scored their eighth win of the season at the expense of San Antonio.

Australian Matthew Dellavedova did not get onto the court in the 130-112 win, Sacramento's fifth in a row.

The Spurs, meanwhile, are on a three-game skid.

In the final game of the day, the LA Clippers consigned the Detroit Pistons to their 13th defeat of the season, 96-91.

The match marked just the seventh time this season that neither side made it into triple figures and while the Pistons led by as many as 12 points in the first quarter, the Clippers wrangled the ascendancy back late.