The Nets enter 2023 on a roll like few others in franchise history. Brooklyn came to Charlotte with a 10-game winning streak and left it for New Year’s Eve celebrations with an 11-game winning streak. The final score: 123-106.
The streak is now the third longest in Nets history, three wins short of the franchise record, set twice during the Jason Kidd era. December was also the Nets best month ever: 12 wins and one loss. And Jacque Vaughn is 22-7, a 75.9% clip, since taking over for Steve Nash.
The game was what fans have longed for: a wire-to-wire win over a mediocre team led by the heroics of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as well as a solid defense and, tonight, solid bench play as the Nets outscored the Hornets, 42-31, led by Yuta Watanabe with 11 and T.J. Warren with 10.
The Nets never trailed and led by 10 points in the first quarter, 15 in the second, 18 in the third and 22 in the fourth to improve to 24-12, the second best record in the NBA. There was only moment when Nets fans might have taken an extra sip of eggnog. After Charlotte cut it to 71-65 early in the third , Irving and Durant combined to score 11 of the Nets’ next 13 points and sparked Brooklyn’s 28-14 surge for a 97-79 lead entering the fourth quarter. And that was it.
Durant who racked up 23 points in only 30 minutes and didn’t play in the fourth quarter with the Nets lead hovering between 18 and 20 for most of the stanza. Irving, who kept pushing the Hornets back as they threatened to get close, was the game-high scorer with 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including 4-of-9 from three.
And once again, Nic Claxton showed off his credentials for the NBA’s All-Defense Team. Claxton finished with 14 points, missing only one of his seven shots, as well as six rebounds, three assists and for the second straight game, six blocks. Royce O’Neale had another solid outing, finishing with 14 points as well.
Ben Simmons, who was under the weather for the past two days and was a game-time decision, started and played 19 minutes, scoring only two points, grabbing two rebounds and registering three assists.
Vaughn who now has the best won-loss record of any Nets coach (29-10 including the “Bubble,”) talked about what he told the team prior to the game.
“Really, my message to the group before the game is let’s finish the year off in the right way. And that’s taking care of [this] game,” Vaughn said. “I’ll turn the page once we get to 2023 and fill you in on what the [New Year’s] resolution is going to be, but it’s really keeping this group in the now, playing today’s game, and let’s just win today’s game.”
And post-game, he said he thought the Nets had done that.
“We held them to 22 points in the first quarter, so we put our stamp on the game in a hurry,” Vaughn said. “I think we were able to use or rotations and depth to extends our leads a little bit. We wanted to come out with the right mindset, which we did.”
KD said that his team expected Charlotte to mount a challenge.
“We knew that this team could get hot,” Durant said of Charlotte. “They hit some 3s there in the first half so we knew they could get hot there in the third quarter. And they did. They cut it to six.
“We’ve been in this position before so we knew what to do. And the first play out of the timeout, we executed and finished with a win.”
LaMelo Ball had 23 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists for Charlotte. Former Net Mason Plumlee added 22. The Hornets dropped to 10-27.
An opposing head coach’s perspective
Are they now a championship contender? Charlotte coach Steve Clifford, a Nets coaching consultant last season thinks so.
“Durant and Irving,” Clifford said before the game. “They’ve got a bunch of skilled veteran guys around them, so they play very smart; but it all starts with those two guys. And you can’t guard either one of them without a second defender, which is what NBA basketball is all about: Creating two to the ball. They’re a super high iso team. They play one-on-one a lot. They’re great at it.
“Kyrie pick-and-rolls, you double team him, he crushes it. So even though it sounds like that’d be a smart thing to do, he’s actually more efficient against double teams in many ways than he is when you play traditional coverages. And then they have really good players around them, veteran guys, high IQ, and they’re playing with great purpose. So you’ve got to do it all.
“You can’t let them score fast-break points, you can’t put them at the free throw line, you can’t let them get second shots, and they can’t be scoring cutting baskets. Because they’re so good at everything else, when they get those then it’s over. So there’s nothing they’re not good at. They’re good at every level. There’s no other team in the league right now offensively near what they’re doing.”
A fitting fans tribute
A 12-year-old girl in Nets gear took advantage of the confluence of Kevin Durant, who many (including us) see as the best player in the world, playing against a team owned by Michael Jordan. who many (including us) see as the best player in the world ever. She held up a sign saying KD was the GOAT, not MJ.
She was looking for a response and she got one...
What a moment between KD and this young fan pic.twitter.com/SwXIE4US2Y— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 1, 2023
- The Nets finished December with a record of 12-1. It was the winningest month in franchise history as well as the best record in the league this month. Brooklyn has now won 15 of its last 16 games and 18 of its last 21 games overall.
- Kevin Durant hit his 1,831st 3-pointer putting him in the 20th slot all-time. Moving up on this list as well.
- Nic Claxton blocked a career-high-tying six shots for a second straight game. He’s the first player to register six blocks in consecutive games since Brook Lopez did it for the Bucks in January 2020. He’s the first Net to do so since Shawn Bradley in Nov. 1996.
- Yuta Watanabe had a career-high five steals.
Happy Birthday, Edmond.
Being born on New Years Eve is not as unique as being born on Leap Day, February 29. same with a birthday that falls on Christmas. It does make for a neat transition from one year to another. Edmond Sumner had a solid game on his 27th birthday Saturday, scoring eight points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. Afterwards he was serenaded by teammates and staff.
A little postgame birthday celebration for @EdmondSumner! pic.twitter.com/pYFl0dNCJK— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 1, 2023
The vibes are good.
Joe Harris feeling better
Joe Harris didn’t play at all on the Nets three-game road trip with knee soreness. He’s been getting treatment back in Brooklyn. Before the game, Jacque Vaughn held out some hope that Harris could play Monday in Brooklyn, saying the Nets wing is “feeling better.”
“Good progress for Joe going forward, so look forward to seeing him when we get back,” Vaughn said. “Yeah, I am hopeful for [Monday]. He’ll actually go get some treatment [Sunday]. I texted with him and he was feeling better. So he gets treatment … and see how he responds.”
Brooklyn heads home for the first game of 2023 on Monday vs. San Antonio. Coverage of the game against San Antonio begins at 7:00 p.m. EST on the YES Network.
For a different perspective on tonight’s game, head to At the Hive, our Hornets sister site.
- Box Score: Brooklyn Nets 123, Charlotte Hornets 106 - NBA
- Game Highlights: Brooklyn Nets 123, Charlotte Hornets 106 (Video) - NBA
- Highlights: Kyrie Irving vs. Charlotte Hornets / 28 PTS (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Highlights: Kevin Durant vs. Hornets / 23 PTS (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Edmond Sumner on his performance on his 27th birthday (Video) - Meghan Triplett - YES Network
- Jacque Vaughn on Nets’ 11th straight win (Video) - YES Network
- Kevin Durant on Brooklyn’s performance against Charlotte (Video) - YES Network
- Kyrie Irving on Nets’ 123-106 win over Charlotte (Video) - YES Network
- Yuta Watanabe talks postgame (Video) - Meghan Triplett - YES Network
- Royce O’Neale on Brooklyn’s New Year’s Eve win over Hornets (Video) - Meghan Triplett - YES Network
- Irving and Durant lead Nets past Hornets for 11th win a row - Richard Walker - AP
- Nets run winning streak to 11 by beating Hornets again - Reuters
- Nets cruise past Hornets to extend winning streak to 11 games - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets’ Ben Simmons staying on an even keel during team’s win streak - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- KD says surging Nets’ sights set on ‘bigger and better things’ after clearing ‘22 hurdles - Nick Friedell - ESPN
- Nets extend streak to 11 with win over Hornets - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Ending on a sour note. What we learned in the Hornets’ New Year’s Eve loss to Brooklyn - Roderick Boone - Charlotte Observer