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WOW! Missing eight players, Nets shock Pacers, 136-133

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Brooklyn Nets v Indiana Pacers Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Where to begin!?!

  • Cam Thomas drops 21 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 33? Thomas didn’t just finish with a career high. He shot 13-of-20, including 3-of-3 from deep
  • Day’Ron Sharpe has a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds, NINE of them offensive? Fan trade target Myles Turner had 16 and 3.
  • Patty Mills, coming off seven DNP-CDs, shows leadership AND scores 24 points. his highest total since January 29 ... last season?
  • Edmond Sumner who was playing his first game back in Indiana after missing all of last season, has 21, 14 in the first quarter?
  • Four Nets finish with more 20 points? ALL of them season highs: Thomas, Sharpe, Mills and Sumner.
  • Brooklyn comes back from 14 points, their biggest comeback in the season, outscoring the Pacers 56-39 in the last 18 minutes of the game?
  • The makeshift lineup scored 40 points in the first quarter and 40 more in the fourth, the first time in franchise history?
  • And how about this: the Nets came within ONE point of scoring the most second chance points in the 27 seasons for which the stat has been tracked: 37 of them? Only the Pelicans in 2009 had more.
  • In the end, the big thing was this: The Nets won without EIGHT PLAYERS, including Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Joe Harris, Royce O’Neale and Nic Claxton. They used their two-way, Alondes Williams, for the first time all season.


There were moments when doubt may have crept in, but in the end, the final score was Brooklyn Nets 136, Indiana Pacers 133. It was the Nets third straight win after last weekend’s loss to the Celtics and are now 10-3 since they got blown out by the Kings in Sacramento. They are now 16-12.

Thomas, who didn’t play in the third, took over in the fourth. He could not be stopped. Each time Indiana looked like it was going to take over the game, the 6’4” 21-year-old guard found a way, with floaters, free throws and an array of the improbable. Post-game, Thomas offered praise for his head coach, Jacque Vaughn.

“It means everything and when your coach trusts you and the coach staff trust you. You play more freely, play real hard. So I’m just glad I got the coach’s trust and the coaching staff. It helps me a lot.”

Thomas also talked about the collective effort and how the next-man-up works.

“We don’t really worry about who was out. When they said who was out, we were like ‘OK, we’re going to play ball. We’re pros too, we can play with them.’ We just wanted to come out and play hard. We got the win,” said Thomas.

“It’s all about opportunity and just being ready,” Sharpe added. His 20 and 12 game like Thomas’, was filled with the unexpected ...

The game was, frankly, expected to be a blowout. How can you lose all your stars — Kevin Durant didn’t even travel — and get a big W. Indeed, at the beginning of the game, the social media narrative was that the Nets had screwed fans by resting so many of its stars. But the narrative changed quickly when the Nets starting five of Edmond Sumner, Patty Mills, Markieff Morris, Day’Ron Sharpe and Kessler Edwards. It was only three days ago that Sharpe and Edwards were playing for Long Island in the G League!

The win was particularly special for Sumner, a return to Indianapolis where he had played his entire four-year career before ruptured his achilles and missed all of last season. He got the Nets off to a fast start, scoring 40 points in the first quarter, 14 of them by the 26-year-old speedster and seven by the 34-year-old Mills who hadn’t played since before Thanksgiving.

By halftime, it looked like Indiana was going to take control, as the Pacers went on a 15-3 run to put the Hoosiers up by 10. Then, things got ugly in the third and with 6:24 left, the Nets were down by a game-high 14 and it looked like nature was taking its course, talent and all that, ya know.

But a couple of things happened, Vaughn switched to a zone that caught Pacers unawares and slowly but surely they reduced Indy’s advantage. The change paid immediate dividends and the Nets went on a 15-6 run. Why’d he wait? Vaughn said he didn’t want to use it before the half so Rick Carlisle, his counterpart, couldn’t prepare for it.

“We didn’t want to give it to him before halftime so they could adjust to it at halftime. So we kept it in our back pocket and little bit of a surprise attack,” said Vaughn smiling.

With 9:49 left in the fourth, Nets tied things up at 105 on a baseline drive by David Duke Jr. The Nets still trailed 122-120 with 3:24 left before they took the lead with a 6-0 run: Thomas’ tied it, and Yuta Watanabe, back from missing 10 straight games, hit one of two from the line but grabbed his own miss and found Mills for a 3-pointer, giving Brooklyn a 126-122 lead with 2:34 to play.

Yuta Watanabe got inside for a putback of a Thomas miss to push the cushion to six with under 1:49 left. The Nets closed it out from there but with some tense moments. The Nets finally were able to breathe easy when Andrew Nembhard missed a potentially game-tying three with two seconds left.

At game’s end, there was a lot of happy talk from the owner to the coach to the players.

On the other side of Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Jalen Smith of the Pacers said his team dissed the Nets and paid for it.

“We disrespected them,” Smith said. “That’s on us. We just have to continue to treat it like if KD and Kyrie were out there and we had to make sure we were locking into what the coaches were telling us before the game. We knew it was going to be a dogfight. We said it coming into the game. It’s a whole bunch of guys trying to fight for minutes so they were going to go hard no matter what. We got punched in the mouth.”

Did Nets go too far in load management?

Prior to the game, Jacque Vaughn had to defend his — and the franchise’s — decision to rest the team’s top scorers. He explained that the Nets, who have played 28 games so far — tied for the most in the league, have been dealing with a lot and the schedule pointed to the Pacers game as an ideal game to recharge his team. By resting the eight, the Nets ensured all of them will only play one game over seven days — the Wizards Monday.

“Yeah, it’s interesting,” Vaughn said. “You see it throughout the course of the season, maybe three guys or four guys. When we took a global look at it ... when you have two or three guys, rotational guys out, it puts a strain and a stress on two or three more guys and then we’re really not in a position of taking care of the team in total. We think, how does it affect everyone else so we can get to a place where, next week we’re looking at ourselves in the mirror with pretty good health mentally and physically.”

Of course, Durant has been the league leader in minutes played (994,) followed closely by O’Neale (971.) Vaughn said the decision to bench KD — and keep him home in New York — was his, that Durant wanted to play.

NBA officials have discouraged roster management for years especially for road games where superstars like KD and Kyrie are the attraction.

Milestone Watch

The Nets grabbed 29 offensive rebounds tonight.

-Most by any team in a game this season.

-Most for the Nets in a game since Jan. 1998 (30 offensive boards on January 30, 1998 vs. San Antonio).

Per John Schuhmann, the Nets points off offensive boards was near historic.

Markieff Morris had his first double-double with the Nets (15 and 11) and had his contract guaranteed by another $1 million. When he signed a $2.9 million vets minimum deal in the summer, it was non-guaranteed. The contract has a provision that if he made the Opening Night roster, the deal would be guaranteed $500,000, then if he was still on the roster by December 10, the Nets would add another $1 million The deal, like all non- and partially guaranteed contracts, becomes fully guaranteed on January 10. (Same deadline applies to Edmond Sumner and Yuta Watanabe.)

Alondes Williams makes debut

Nets two-way Alondes Williams entered the game in the second quarter, it was his NBA debut. Also, the Nets became the last NBA team to play a rookie this season. The Nets had no picks in the 2022 Draft but signed Williams to a two-way deal on Draft Night.

The Milwaukee native played five minutes. He finished with a rebound, two turnovers and a foul. Our Jordan Greene profiled him last month.

As Sponge Bob might say...

The game was a reminder of Jacque Vaughn’s first term as a Nets head coach, when he took his team to wins in “the bubble.”

What’s next?

The Nets continue their road trip vs. the Wizards on Monday. Who will play? Jacque Vaughn said everyone other than Royce O’Neale will play Monday. but as Rebecca Lobo joked post-game, “obviously,” the Nets need to change their whole starting line-up.

For a different perspective, go to Indy Cornrows, out SB Nation sister site. Be gentle.