The Brooklyn Nets absolutely insisted this game wasn’t too special. It’s another regular season game they told us over and over.

But the energy in the Wells Fargo Center for Nets-Sixers should have told everyone it wasn’t just another game. Not even to a couple seasoned superstar vets like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Former Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons was in attendance facing Philly fans. The two-time All-Star wasn’t able to go. He’s still out nursing back soreness. It flared up on him as he ramped up to rejoin the team following the Feb. 10 blockbuster that brought him in along with Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, and sent James Harden packing.

Simmons hasn’t played in a game since game seven of the 2021 NBA playoffs. But his presence was center stage in what turned out to be a major statement by Durant, Irving, Seth Curry and this Nets team. With the arena in a frenzy chanting at Simmons, and booing the Nets, Brooklyn rose to the occasion and by the end of a 129-100 massacre, only the Brooklyn Brigade was audible.

Durant dropped 25 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 assists. He also had 2 steals in a block. You could tell that there were some nervous jitters for the Sixers (and James Harden in particular) but Durant actually seemed better because of it. So did Kyrie Irving. Kyrie had 22 points and 5 dimes. A Nets team that had fallen all the way to 24th in defensive rating held Joel Embiid and Harden to a combined 8 of 34 from the floor.

After the game, they talked about playing with Ben Simmons in mind. They really had their teammate’s back, no pun intended.

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KD was asked if he was playing for Ben, since he couldn’t suit up but had to sit and listen to the crowd boo him mercilessly. “Most definitely, I think all of us were,” Durant said. “We look at Ben as our brother so we knew this was the hostile environment and we knew that he didn’t have the opportunity to play… it’s hard for you to chant at Ben Simmons when you’re losing by that much.”

Kyrie expressed a similar sentiment. “When we played tonight, we definitely felt like Ben [Simmons] was on our heart, you could see it, he was wearing it, and we just wanted to go out there and play for him…. you come at Ben, you come at us. You come at anyone on our team you come at all of us.”

The Nets are now 34-33, one game over .500. They’re in the 8th seed, and there a a few scenarios where these teams could meet during the playoffs. Brooklyn may have made enough of a statement Philly would dread that scenario. And oh by the way, Simmons would be active for the next one.

KD and Kyrie will downplay all this speculation of course. But we’re happy to read between the lines. It seemed as if the raucous arena and energy played right into the hands of some players who have already dealt with that and embrace being the villain.

KD is used to being hated. He was booed and heckled all over the league when he joined the Golden State Warriors. When he returned to Oklahoma City it was wild as fans called him “cupcake.” He’s no stranger to this stuff. Kyrie had to go back to Cleveland as a member of the Boston Celtics and then traveled back to Boston as a member of the Nets. Both scenes were intense.

Last weekend he even referred to Celtics fans as a scorned girlfriend. You can tell that the Nets stars have taken Simmons under their wing and feel for him. And they were more than happy to help make the anti-Ben chants transform into Brooklyn chants.