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Bruce Brown scores career-high 29 as Nets win seventh straight in front of fans

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Sacramento Kings v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

While James Harden had another stellar performance — his sixth triple-double as a Net — Bruce Brown had himself a career night. The 24-year-old finished with a career-high 29 points to go along with four rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes of play. Brown ended his big night shooting 11-of-13 overall and 2-of-3 from deep. Moreover, he scored eight of the Nets’ final 14 points in the game’s final few minutes, turning a game of runs into a win.

Following the win, Steve Nash provided high praise to Brown, calling his play remarkable while noting his position adjustment and his all-around play.

“Well, Bruce is remarkable,” Steve Nash said following the win. “I mean, the guy I think he mostly played point guard last year, and he’s playing - What do you want to call him, our center? You know, he’s picking and rolling and finishing with two bigs in the lane. His willingness and ability to do that is remarkable. He made some 3s tonight. But for me, it’s all the other stuff; it’s the activity, the defense, the deflections, all those other things. You add it all up, and you had a big impact on the game before you even get to the points. So fantastic effort from Bruce.”

Harden followed, saying Brown is a player that not only does a little bit of everything for this Nets team but works his butt off every single night. The Nets superstar complimented his screen and rolls while noting that he showed us his three-ball tonight.

“He does a little bit of everything. He’s a guy that just goes out there and competes his butt off every single night and great things happen for him,” Harden said on Brown. “Especially with the talent level we have on this team. He sets screens and rolls to the basket, he’s an unbelievable cutter and tonight he showed us he’s capable of knocking down the 3 ball. So he does it all he works his butt off and when you work your tail off and keep grinding and pushing good things happen for you and I’m so happy for him and I’m proud of him.”

Hilariously, Brown had no idea that he set his career-high in points until the end of the game –– when Jeff Green pulled him aside to tell him of the news.

“I don’t really be looking up there too much,” explained Brown. “When I do look up there, it’s for the score. It’s not like individual stats. He came to me and said, ‘Why didn’t (you) get thirty?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know what I had. What did I have?” And he was like, ‘twenty-nine.’ And I was like, ‘Damn... I should’ve made that layup at the end.’”

It was the first time since last March 8 that fans were permitted inside Barclays Center. With tight restrictions, 300 of the faithful were seated. The Nets will keep to that number the rest of this week, then plan to up the number next week ... if all goes well.

Harden’s finished with 29 points, 14 assists, and 11 rebounds in 41 minutes. The final score 127-118, extending Brooklyn’s winning streak to seven games and improving to 21-12 on the season.

To Nash, what stood out to him the most was the fourth-quarter defense from his players, while noting tonight’s game was a trap game.

“Fourth-quarter defense. We turned it up, held them to 22, I think we had a couple late buckets and put it to bed, so I was proud of that,” Nash said. “I thought everyone contributed. And I thought this is a trap game. You have a winning streak on the West Coast, you fly back across the country, getting acclimated to family and friends, then timezone and all that stuff, and you play a team you beat a week ago. It’s a trap game. So I was proud of the focus. It wasn’t always pretty, but they wanted to win, and they got the stops when they needed them.”

The Nets starting five all finished in double-figures and ended the win shooting 49.4 percent overall and 42.5 percent from deep. In addition to Harden and Brown, Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris and DeAndre Jordan put up 10 or more points. DJ also finished with eight boards and four blocks. It was his second four-block game, the first time he’s done that in five years.

The Nets, led by Irving, who finished with 21 points, seven assists, and five rebounds in 37 minutes, piled it on offensively throughout the first quarter, ending the period with 42 points on 71.4 percent shooting overall and 62.5 percent from deep.

While their offense was flowing against the worst defensive team in the league, the story of the first quarter was Steve Nash and the Nets utilized their bench - subbing in Nic Claxton, who finished with five points in 14 minutes, Andre Roberson, and Tyler Johnson in the first. Brooklyn entered the second with a 42-28 lead, which also marked the most points scored in a first this year and their ninth 40-point first quarter of the season.

The Kings bounced back in the second, cutting the Nets lead to six as Nash called a timeout with 7:13 remaining. Iman Shumpert checked in following the timeout, making his first appearance in an NBA game since January 6, 2020, which was the last game of his previous Nets tenure.

Sacramento continued to build confidence and chip away as Brooklyn struggled defensively but the Nets ended the quarter on a strong note. Harris, who finished with 18 points in 32 minutes, made his 700th made three to put Brooklyn up 72-66 at the half. The Nets’ 72 first-half points, led by Harden with 18 points, marked the third-highest points scored in a first half this season.

Along with scoring 18 points at the half, Harden became the first Net since Jason Kidd (2006) to record 15+ points, five or more rebounds, and 10+ assists in a half.

The two teams continued to score offensively but lacked defensively. Sacramento continued to attack the rim and get in the paint, taking their first lead of the game with 14.3 remaining in the third. The King went on to outscore the Nets 30-26 in the third as Brooklyn led Sacramento 98-96 heading into the final 12 minutes of play.

Brooklyn opened the fourth quarter with Harden, Harris, Tyler Johnson, Andre Roberson, and Claxton as the game came down to the final minutes as the game turned into a game of defensive stops and a Brown show. The Nets kept it up offensively and pulled together key stops late to win the game.

As for the Kings, their starting five also finished in double-figures, led by De’Aaron Fox with 27 points in 38 minutes followed by Tyrese Haliburton, who put together a strong game off the bench of 23 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists in 40 minutes.

Now, let's dive into some film.

The Film Room

So um, tryout night was fun?

With Iman Shumpert, Andre Roberson, and sparkling prospect Nicolas Claxton making their respective debuts, there was A LOT to get excited for on your regular old Tuesday night game against the Sacramento Kings. Iman Shumpert mailed in pull-up jumpers. Andre Roberson hawked Kings guards with chase-down blocks. But maybe most exhilarating of all Brooklyn’s second-year big man.

With all the discussion about which of the many possible centers the Nets should acquire on the trade block and/or buyout market, perhaps Brooklyn’s best option will ultimately come from within.

From the second he stepped on the court, Nicolas Claxton POPPED. Early on, he sniffed out a Sacramento off-ball action by switching on a pin-down screen away from the play. The switching didn’t stop from the 21-year-old; he swapped matchups on ball-screens, he picked up unguarded players in transition. He looked like a dang guard.

Those dribble-handoffs that Steve Nash described on Tuesday? Yeah, looking pretty good for all the Claxmania fans out there. A willing facilitator like James Harden certainly helps.

Fans back at Barclays

It didn’t look like the way it did before the pandemic changed everything, starting with how fans entered the building...

The fans got personal greetings, starting with John Abbamondi, CEO of the Nets and BSE Global.

Then once inside, things were really different, starting with Kyrie Irving’s greetings...

And new configurations for the lucky few...

At least one New York icon celebrated the return...

Nets players and head coach Steve Nash said that despite their limited numbers, the fans in the building made themselves known.

“Just having somebody in there to cheer you on is better than nothing. So, it was definitely nice even though 300 is not a lot in the big arena. But it’s still a better feel than the empty ones,” said Joe Harris.

“You can hear ‘em. I’m not gonna say it was Friday night, 18,000, but it was nice to have people in the building,” said Steve Nash. “I thought it gave us a little bit more life and hopefully it’s safe and just the beginning of bringing in fans. Little things like that give the players a boost. It’s been a difficult year, and as long as we can do it safely it’s exciting for everyone.”

Or as Sponge Bob might say...

Per Will Hanley.

What’s next?

The Nets will be back in action on Thursday, Feb. 25 when the team hosts the Orlando Magic. The game is set to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised on YES Network.

For a different perspective, check out Sactown Royalty - our sister site covering the Sacramento Kings.