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Six Nets finish in double-figures as Brooklyn defeats Golden State in KD’s return, 134-117

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Brooklyn Nets v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Just taking care of business.

The Nets kicked off their road trip with a dominant, matter-of-fact dismantling of the Warriors Saturday night on ABC, beating (up) Golden State, 134-117. With the win, the Nets extend their winning streak to four games against the Warriors and improve to 16-12 on the season while the Warriors dip to 14-13.

It was the first win for the Nets in the Bay Area since 2012 when they were still in New Jersey and the Warriors still in Oakland.

Brooklyn played with high effort on both ends of the floor and throughout all four quarters. Not only did the Nets outscore the Warriors in the first three quarters and complimented their offensive play with solid defensive play.

“For the most part, we were locked in,” Nash said about the Nets’ defense in the win. “We were talking, stuck with the gameplan, and so I thought we grew a little bit defensively. It was an incredible challenge playing against Steph, Draymond, and the way they all play, cut, and move. Great challenge and I thought we were locked into our game plan, didn’t make a lot of mistakes, and brought a lot of focus.”

It was an eventful night for Kevin Durant, who not only returned from a four-game absence due to health and safety protocols (contact tracing), but returned back to the Bay Area where he helped deliver two championships in his three-year tenure.

Durant finished with 20 points, five rebounds, and six assists in 33 minutes of play. Prior to the game, Steve Nash noted that Durant hadn’t said much about how special the game was, but Durant put on a show in his first return nonetheless.

“It was cool,” Durant said on his return to the bay area. “We came out and played a great game. We were focused from this morning waking up for shootaround. It was a great vibe all day.”

Although the game narrative was about KD’s return, Brooklyn had six players finish in double-figures including all of their starters. In fact, with all five Nets starters scoring 15+ in a regulation game has not been accomplished since 1999 when the team played the Seattle SuperSonics.

James Harden had what is becoming a typical night facilitating for his teammates, dishing out 16 assists to go along with 19 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes of play. Harden’s 16 assists marked a new Brooklyn Nets record. Deron Williams holds the Nets franchise record, dishing 20 assists against the Warriors in 2012.

“He showed a variety of great vision and deliveries. That's the brilliance of James. His ability to distort and manipulate the defense while setting his teammates up for opportunities,” Steve Nash said. “Tonight, more of the same and that is a huge addition to our team is his playmaking and vision.”

Kyrie Irving showcased his skills throughout the game, but mostly in the second half, finishing with 23 points, four assists, and five rebounds in 34 minutes of play, including several jaw-dropping, eye-opening finishes.

The biggest surprise, though, was the play of Bruce Brown, who was the nominal 5 in the starting unit. Working the paint and taking advantages of his teammates’ passes (see below), Brown scored 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting to along with seven boards. Joe Harris finished with 15 points and Jeff Green 14 points and six rebounds.

How good was that?

As a team, the Nets shot 53.8 percent from the field and 41.0 percent from deep - turning over the ball 13 times. To make the win a bit sweeter, the Nets offense continued to break records. The 134 points scored marked the seventh time this season the team scored 130+ points - which matches the franchise record of 130-point games in a single season. Keep in mind this was only Brooklyn’s 20th game. Scary things to come ...

As for the Warriors, Stephen Curry paved the way finishing with 27 points in 34 minutes followed by Andrew Wiggins, who finished his night with 17 points in 33 minutes of play. The Nets held Curry to 2-of-9 from deep.

Now, let’s dive into some wonderful film.

The Film Room

On a basketball court that featured the likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Draymond Green, it was.... wait whaaaa? Bruce Brown?... who led the Nets in scoring through 24 minutes?

Here, he sets a ball-screen in the halfcourt for James Harden and slips a beat early, slams down a singular dribble, and skies for the two-handed dunk like a 6’2” Rudy Gobert.

“The basketball game has already evolved into being positionless,” said Kyrie Irving about Brown. “Seeing a 6’2” center, as you guys call Bruce Brown, for us we’re just focused on finding our matchups and being in the right play.”

He’s a center in a guard’s body, you know.

Here, he puts that hustle into extra-gear, streaking ahead of the pack to beat the Warrior defense after Draymond Green and Juan Toscano-Anderson trap James Harden at the top of the key. Beat the Warriors at their own game and freaking RUN, I love it!

“We had a gameplan and we went out there and did it perfectly,” said Brown after the tremendous victory. “We knew they were going to help off me, so once they left me, I cut to the rim and it was wide-open every time. I’m just used to teams leaving me because we have the scorers we have on the floor. So when I’m out there, I’m just gonna cut and find ways to score the ball when I need to.”

Maybe most impressive of all is the play below. The Warriors are set up in a 2-3 zone, a defensive scheme that has given the Nets problems previously (see: Cleveland Cavaliers mini-series). What’s the best way to beat a zone, you may ask? Well, it’s simple: Have a guy flash middle to the “nail,” AKA the middle of the free-throw line, to warp the zone. The zone is set up to protect the basket and the corners while allocating two defenders to the wings to defend ball-screens up top; this leaves the middle wide-open, for the most part.

Flashing to the middle is exactly what Bruce Brown does; he’s a player wise beyond his years, and this is a fantastic example of that.

Notice the confusion it causes. Without a player assigned to Brown, as you’d see in man-to-man defense, the Warriors send TWO players his way in a panic. A simple swing-swing gives Harden the three-ball at the top of the key.

Smart basketball. It never gets old.

Speaking of video...

The Warriors aired a Kevin Durant tribute video during the game, the first of two they plan.

Next season, when there are fans in the stands, Golden State plans something more elaborate to celebrate KD’s contributions to the player who twice won the Finals MVP, including a jersey retirement ceremony for No. 35.

“Tribute video was cool. I think about those moments daily,” Durant said. “Every single moment that I have had in this league, I think about it and try to analyze it and get better. My time here in Golden State was so much fun. It was such a big learning experience, especially learning basketball in a different philosophy. I’m gonna take that with me for the rest of my life.”

Steve Kerr called tributes to KD a “no-brainer.”

“This is something that is such a no-brainer. When Kevin came here and gave us three years of just incredible basketball, the least we could do is welcome him back with open arms,’’ Kerr said. “... A guy that gave everything to us for three years then left with a devastating injury. There should be a lot of love, he did so much for us.’’

Kyrie Irving told James Harden, “you’re the point-guard, and I’m going to play shooting guard.”

James Harden and Kyrie Irving fit hand-in-glove as a backcourt. James Harden has usurped point-guard duties, facilitating at a league-leading rate. While Kyrie has taken on career-high scoring duties in a more off-ball role. According to Kyrie, the dichotomy was agreed to just in the last week.

“He’s just been doing a great job managing the point-guard role. We established that maybe four days ago now. I just looked at him and said, ‘you’re the point guard, and I’m going to play shooting guard.’ And it was a simple as that.” Kyrie concluded, “he’s been taking control of the responsibilities and doing an incredible job, and it just makes my job easier to play free and make plays.”

James Harden, the other half of this prolific backcourt, also spoke about their verbal agreement.

“I came to this team knowing that they have two special scorers on this team,” said Harden. “Obviously, I can score when I need to. As long as I can get everything involved –– Kai is getting the shots that he wants, KD is getting the shots that he wants –– it’s pretty efficient. It seems to work well that way.”

*Glances at box score*

108 points in 3 quarters? Efficient indeed, James. Efficient indeed.

Steve Nash won’t commit to Norvel Pelle and Noah Vonleh due to conditioning issues; no return date for Iman Shumpert

Prior to Saturday’s game against the Golden State Warriors, Steve Nash spoke about when an opportunity would come for two of the newest Nets: Norvel Pelle and Noah Vonleh. Nash noted both still aren’t in basketball shape. He said he doesn’t know when that opportunity will arrive but says he’d like to see something out of one or the other when they do get a chance.

“I think it would be nice if one of them emerged, got an opportunity, and showed that they can contribute,” Nash said. “It’s still really early for those guys too getting themselves in shape and getting comfortable. You are talking about guys that were basically at home doing drills, if that. Whenever the time comes, hopefully they can take the opportunity but I could not commit to when that is.”

Pelle has only seen a total of 28 minutes in three games for the Nets since his arrival while Vonleh saw five minutes of action in two games played, including three in garbage time Saturday.

As for Iman Shumpert, Nash says there is no timetable for a return. The 30-year-old who hasn’t played in more than a year is dealing with a left hamstring strain

“He is traveling and he is making strides but I couldn’t put a time frame on it on when he’s back and when he’s available,” Nash said. “It is great to have him here and see how he progresses.”

All three players plus Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Chris Chiozza have an important day on their calendars - February 24, when all non guaranteed and partially guaranteed contracts become fully guaranteed. In other words, Marks and the Nets have the ability to waive any of the five players by February 23 —10 days from Saturday— the latest at no cost to open any roster spots. Chiozza didn’t play Saturday while TLC had eight points and six boards.

When asked about the impending deadline, Nash directed the question to the front office and Seans Marks but noted how each of those three players will have ‘some of it in their hands’ and some not. If either of the players get an opportunity on the Nets road trip, he’d like to see the player(s) take advantage of it.

“We got a lot of moving parts right now. We had to fill some roster spots, brought three guys in, taking a look at them, and there is no guarantees. We do not know how it is going to play out, what the future holds, and it is more of a question for Sean [Marks]. If they get the opportunity and take it, it would be fantastic but who knows if the opporunity comes of not. Some of it will be in their hands and some of it won’t be in their hands so I can’t give much clarity on that.”

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

The Nets will play the second game of their five game road trip when the team returns back to action to face the Sacramento Kings on Monday, Feb. 15. The game is set to tip off at 10:00 PM ET and will be broadcasted on YES Network.

For a different perspective, check out Golden State of Mind - our sister site on SB Nation covering the Golden State Warriors.