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LaMarcus Aldridge shines in Nets debut as Brooklyn blow out Charlotte, 111-89

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Charlotte Hornets v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It was all Nets and a bonafide Brooklyn blowout Thursday night.

Without James Harden and Blake Griffin, the Nets drew on LaMarcus Aldridge and he shined in his Nets debut as Brooklyn defeated Charlotte, 111-89. With the win, the Nets remain on top of the East with a 34-15 record and have now won 20 of their last 23 games and seven home wins in a row. Nets are now 20-6 at Barclays Center for the season.

“It was a great win. One of the best starts maybe since before the break so that was positive. It’s a very good team. We obviously shot the ball well but we defended,” Steve Nash said postgame. “We got into people and our communication was great, we rebounded and we took care of business. Proud of the guys. That was a tough game back-to-back - a tough little stretch here and we had a good week.”

Facing a well-rested yet shorthanded Hornets team, Aldridge got the start for his Nets debut and didn’t disappoint. The 6’11” big played his game and meshed quite well with his new teammates as he finished with 11 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block in 30 minutes. He was also +22 plus/minus, his best number in nearly a year and a half. This was Aldridge’s first game since March 1 and his new head coach was surprised by his play after a whole month absence.

“He did,” Nash said when asked if Aldridge surprised him. “It’s not easy to do to have that type of layoff and try to keep yourself in good shape. There’s a real difference between playing basketball and staying in shape. He looked in good condition and he was sharper than I thought he was going to be with that much time away. I was impressed.”

Jeff Green had a big game as the Nets “voice of reason” finished with a team-high 21 points to go along with eight rebounds and two assists in 31 minutes of play. Kyrie Irving, who was the lone member of the Big Three available, finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in 34 minutes.

Landry Shamet made quite the splash in his return following a five-game absence due to a right ankle sprain. The 24-year-old played 21 minutes off the bench, scored 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting from deep - which led the bench in scoring. Tyler Johnson followed with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from deep in 22 minutes off the bench.

DeAndre Jordan remained the only Net available who did not play in the blowout win.

“I talked to him before and said we got to incorporate LaMarcus. He may not play tonight. I did not want to throw him in there as a veteran at the end of the game,” Nash said. “His spirit was great. I told DJ - play or not play, he’s going to stay ready, have a great attitude and he’s bought in. Tonight, he had a terrific attitude and support for his teammates as we are all trying to play for something bigger than ourselves and commit to one another. I was really proud of him for accepting that and give LaMarcus an opportunity to get into the team.”

When asked whether Jordan will remain in the rotation, Nash said he wants his veteran big to stay ready with the loaded center frontcourt which will get even more loaded with the return of Kevin Durant, expected next week.

As for Charlotte, who falls to 24-23 on the season, was led by Gordon Hayward, who finished with 13 points in 29 minutes while Devonte Graham contributed 13 points as well in 21 minutes.

Nash and the Nets have been pushing to start games on a strong note and it was all Nets in the first quarter.

Brooklyn got their offense going early, forging a quick 15-6 lead led by Green with six points while the Hornets missed 13 of their first 15 shots. The Nets continued to pile it on, growing their lead to 21 to end the first as it was a complete team effort but their defense was the main story as the first quarter was the best defensive performance in the first by the Nets all season - holding Charlotte to 4-of-23 overall and a rough 1-of-10 from deep.

The Nets continued their onslaught on both ends of the floor, highlighted by their dominant defense, as everything was going Brooklyn’s way as the team ran their offense through Aldridge. The seven-time All-Star made smart reads and displayed his veteran IQ. The 6’11” big ended the first half with nine points, six rebounds and five assists in 17 minutes on 3-of-7 shooting overall. While Aldridge was getting comfortable, Shamet looked confident as he scored 14 points on 4-of-5 from three in 12 minutes. Brooklyn led by 29 at one point in the second.

Charlotte woke up after a rough first period, outscoring the Brooklyn 37-36 in the second but the Nets remained in control of the tempo, finishing out the second boasting a 20-point lead behind a stellar team effort. Brooklyn had three players in double-figures at the break and shot 55.3 percent overall and 59.1 percent from deep.

Brooklyn opened the second half on a 12-2 run to extend their lengthy lead to 30 - marking the fifth game has held a lead of 30+ points this season - all of which have been at Barclays. The Nets held the Hornets to 65 points through three quarters, marking the second-fewest opposing points allowed through three quarters this season, To complement their defense, Brooklyn headed into the final 12 minutes shooting above 50 percent from the floor (50.0 percent from the field and 51.5 percent from deep).

The Hornets didn’t go away as the team began the fourth on a 7-0 run while the Nets didn’t attempt a shot during that span, leading Nash to call a timeout with his team nursing a 20-point cushion. While Charlotte continued to play hard till the final whistle, the team suffered a big blow as Malik Monk, who has been a valuable player off the bench, suffered a rough right ankle sprain and exited the game with six minutes remaining.

At the end, Nash unleashed the bench (Chris Chiozza, Alize Johnson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Reggie Perry while Bruce Brown remained on the floor, holding a 21 point lead with 4:01 remaining and closed out the game. Johnson, who had 15 rebounds in his Nets debut last week, garnered five vs. Charlotte.

Now, let's dive into some film.

The Film Room

Hey, so.

Remember how anonymous GM’s were reportedly “concerned” about the buyout market? Well, um. LaMarcus Aldridge’s opening night performance certainly didn’t ease those worries.

We know what Aldridge brings on paper; he’s an evergreen post-up threat who can space the floor credibly to the corners and above the break during pick-and-pops. In his debut, he was force-fed LOADS of post-up touches. The results were vintage.

Where the 35-year-old exceeded expectations was as a playmaker. He made multiple strong reads from the post, including finding the roving Bruce Brown for his trademarked floater.

(Brown, of course, had been struggling up to Thursday’s game whilst confined within starting units that contained fellow non-shooter DeAndre Jordan. He had 14 points on 7 shots against the Hornets. Basketball is that simple sometimes!)

And here, Aldridge flicks a dime to Jeff Green after feeling the double-team from Uncle Jeff’s man, Bismack Biyombo, on his shoulder.

On defense, Aldridge showed real signs of effort. Though the pronouncements of switchability may be a farce at this point in our juncture, Aldridge repeatedly affected shots at the rim while tucked snuggly into a drop coverage. He’s a big body with solid instincts that can spook guys who dare challenge him at the basket. Though Charlotte’s stretch bigs, P.J. Washington, namely, provided a tougher test for Aldridge with three-point abilities, Aldridge held his own on defense as a whole. That in itself is a victory for the Nets.

The buyout market may never be the same...

LaMarcus Aldridge sure seems happy...

LaMarcus Aldridge spoke on his new home, Brooklyn, New York, and the basketball team that now employs his expertise and services. And call us crazy, but he sure seems happy about being here.

“I feel like it now,” said Aldridge of being a Net. “I definitely had fun out there. These guys are great. They got me touches. It’s a bunch of good guys that just want to win and just play basketball. So I think that makes it easy for everyone. They just let me play my game. Those guys — they do their thing, and it’s just easy for me. It’s just one game but it was definitely nice.”

Oh, but he wasn’t done...

“Ah man, they’ve been great,” said Aldridge of his new teammates. “I hit my first free throws and everyone cheered for me. It’s been very nice. Everyone’s been family to me. Everyone’s been cheering me on and happy for me.”

#Culture never left the Nets locker room; it just rebranded and matured.

Kyrie Irving gives terrific soundbite on LaMarcus

Given that it’s LaMarcus LaNight, it’s only fitting we closeout with some words from the always-thoughtful Kyrie Irving on his new starting center. Written word do this one justice. It’s best to have the audio soundbite instead.

The point Irving makes about Aldridge’s post-ups being a different form of attack to change the pace — rather than just going fast, fast, fast out of screen-and-rolls — is so salient. It’s like we always say: There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one speed to hunt a Hornet.

On the larger issue of integrating new players into the rotation, Irving said the Nets were driven by a culture that places accountability and being selfless at its core.

“You know how the NBA culture goes. If a team doesn’t get along, they’ll make up a whole bunch of things and here, we don’t want that bickering and all that nonsense in our locker room. We’re literally dedicated to performing the craft of basketball at a very high level for one another because we want to see each other win.

“I think we’ve all won enough individually. We’ve got a few champions on the team, but now we want to see others have that same championship level mindset, mentality, and then exemplify it. It’s one thing to just say it: Everybody has talks after games, let’s do this, but the culture that’s being built is that accountability, holding each other to that standard, and it’s not easy, bro. It’s never easy. You’ve got to get uncomfortable, and there are conversations that are uncomfortable, things that happen throughout, and you’ve just got to be able to be resilient and you’ve got to persevere.”

Joe Harris back at No. 4 All-Time in 3-point shooting

Some hot shooting of late has once again put Joe Harris near the top of the all-time 3-point shooting percentage, putting him behind only Steve Kerr, Hubert Davis and Seth Curry ... and Curry has been slipping a bit of late, at least by Curry family standards. He’s shooting only 42.4 percent this season while Harris is at 48.9 percent.

Kerr may be out of reach, but Curry and Hubert Davis could be in reach.

As Sponge Bob Might Say...

Per Will Hanley.

What’s next

Brooklyn will be back in action on Easter Sunday when the team travels to the Windy City to host the Chicago Bulls. The game is set to tip at 2:00 PM ET.

For a different perspective, check out At The Hive - our sister site covering the Charlotte Hornets.