NEW YORK — Ben Simmons was just a few seconds into his return from a 38-game absence when he got the ball and led the Brooklyn Nets on a fast break.
“It’s always a fast break when I have the ball,” Simmons said.
A back injury may have knocked him out for a while, but it sure hasn’t slowed Simmons down.
Simmons had 10 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, Mikal Bridges added 33 points and the Nets routed the Utah Jazz 147-114 on Monday night.
Simmons hadn’t played since Nov. 6 because of a pinched nerve in his lower back. The No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft played 18 minutes off the bench, made all five shots and likely would have had a triple-double if not for a minutes restriction.
The Nets outscored the Jazz by 27 points while Simmons was on the floor. He didn’t commit a turnover.
“I just think his ability to pass is something that really elevates this team consistently,” teammate Lonnie Walker IV said.
Cam Thomas added 25 points for the Nets, who rolled to the highest point total they’ve ever scored at home in a regulation game, had 41 assists on their 54 field goals and made 21 3-pointers. They have won two straight games after losing seven of their previous eight.
Walker finished with 19 points as one of eight Nets in double figures. He and Royce O’Neale checked in along with Simmons midway through the first quarter and the game went exactly as Simmons told them it would.
“I told them as soon as we checked in, like, they know what time it is,” Simmons said.
Keyonte George scored 21 points for the Jazz, who had won two straight. They were trying to match an NBA record by scoring 120 points for a 12th straight game, but didn’t help their chances by committing 17 turnovers that the Nets turned into 27 points.
“We just got outworked tonight,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “Plain and simple.”
Simmons checked in with 6:27 remaining in the first quarter, had his first assist six seconds later, assisted on four straight Nets baskets later in the period and had six assists in under five minutes of the quarter. Brooklyn led 43-28 after one, outscoring Utah by 12 when Simmons was in.
Simmons has battled back problems since coming to Brooklyn nearly two years ago, but looked like the player who was an All-Star in Philadelphia before that.
“I think certain guys know what it’s like to play with me and where their shots are going to come from, so for us it’s easy,” Simmons said.
The Nets went ahead 69-48 on Thomas’ 3-pointer with 2:36 remaining in the half, before the Jazz closed with a 9-2 spurt to cut it to 71-57 at the break.
Utah cut it to 11 late with 1 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, but the Nets had it back up to 104-87 when the period ended after Walker tossed in a running 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Bridges then opened the fourth with consecutive 3-pointers to make it 110-87 and the Nets led by 35 later in the period.
Brooklyn played without starting forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who has a left ankle injury and also will sit out Wednesday against Phoenix.
Jazz: Visit the New York Knicks on Tuesday.
Nets: Host Phoenix on Wednesday.
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba