After allowing their first two games slip through their fingers this season, the Brooklyn Nets clinched their fists and said “enough’s enough” da in Charlotte.
You can’t lose in crunch time if you never make it to crunch time. So, the Nets got to work early, putting some space between themselves and another fumbled game. When the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard showed a somewhat overdue first win of the season. Final score: Brooklyn Nets 133, Charlotte Hornets 121. Charlotte never led.
Brooklyn started the game a perfect 8-of-8 from the field, running and gunning alongside Ben Simmons. Ben10 came through with arguably his best game as a Net, shoveling coal into the Nets fast-break steam engine early and often.
The cross court pass was a favorite of his tonight. He looked better throwing the rock than any New York quarterback ... although, that might not be saying much.
Dimes are being dropped out there pic.twitter.com/pNWEi6nW4x— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) October 30, 2023
Thanks to Simmons and co,, the Nets tallied 17 first quarter transition points — something they did only once last season. They took a 42-23 lead into the second quarter, resulting in their third highest scoring frame since the start of last season.
Mikal Bridges, who had had something of a slow start to the season, helped push his team there, barreling down the floor and launching a triple through the net before the horn.
Ended the first on a high note pic.twitter.com/bChtGkFGHS— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) October 30, 2023
But Charlotte did not let Brooklyn have all the fun, cutting their lead to seven points with roughly a minute to go until halftime. A few live ball turnovers and tough shots sunk by the Hornets likely gave Nets fans some PTSD of another blown lead, but they stayed afloat with a 66-55 halftime lead.
The Nets coasted a bit from there, and did so without their starting point guard. Spencer Dinwiddie did not return to the floor with his teammates after half time. It was reported that he suffered an ankle sprain, putting him on the shelf with fellow starters Cam Johnson and Nic Claxton.
In their place, Dorian Finney-Smith continued to step up. Simmons set him up for shooting practice all night long. He especially punished Charlotte during the third period, racking up 10 points to keep the Hornet comeback effort at bay. He finished the game with 19 points, going 4-of-10 from deep.
Playing the small ball 5, Finney-Smith’s spacing gave Brooklyn’s offense a new edge. While it’s difficult to say at this point whether the rim protection sacrificed without Claxton makes the team better or not, it worked tonight which was all that mattered. Finney-Smith agreed when speaking with the New York Post’s Brain Lewis postgame.
“Yeah, I feel like it’s an advantage we can exploit, and just use everybody’s abilities and also help Ben with spacing,” said Finney-Smith. “He can get to the rim”
But he wasn’t alone, as Lonnie Walker IV came through with another solid outing after being glued to the bench during Brooklyn’s opener.
With Brooklyn missing Dinwiddie, Walker’s ability to penetrate the Charlotte defense helped keep the Nets offense humming. He tallied 19 points off the bench while shooting 6-of-13 from the field.
Brooklyn began the fourth up 99-83 where they started doing the basketball equivalent of going to the body. Inflicting their will in the paint, the Nets got easy buckets against the porous Charlotte defense. They ended the game with 74 points there, making it their home away from home.
The Hornets made one final charge in midway through the fourth via a 12-4 run that cut the Nets lead to 10. But Thomas took the wind out of their sails almost immediately afterwards with a number of tough buckets...
He and Bridges essentially took turns hitting shot after shot to close the game out. Thomas finished with 33 points, notching his third straight 30+ point game to start the season. He became the second youngest player to do that in league history. The youngest? NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal.
“He is gaining an extreme amount of trust with his teammates,” said Jacque Vaughn postgame. “We know he has the ability to score the basketball but it’s not forced. It was within the flow of our offense. And then at certain times, we need him to get a bucket, he’s capable of doing that also. So he’s learning how to survey the game a little bit....He’s just continued to grow as a third year player and I’m happy to see it.”
Thomas also joined Donovan Mitchell (2023-23), Luka Doncic (2022-23), Stephen Curry (2022-23, 2018-19), James Harden (2020-21), and Zach LaVine (2018-19) as the only players to put up those scoring numbers in the past five years. Not bad company by any means.
Thomas listed “patience” as the key to his rhythm tonight when asked by Meghan Triplett.
“Just reading the defense, letting everything come to me, not forcing anything or rushing anything, cause that’s how you get in trouble when you start rushing an forcing, cause that’s when the can load up on you,” said Thomas. “So the main thing was just like making the right reads for the teammates. Keep on building we got another game coming up.”
The Nets also put a damper on one of the game’s more electrifying players, LaMelo Ball’s name off this report feels wrong. However, the star Hornet brought little to the table tonight. Riddled with foul trouble, he played just 22 minutes and finished with eight points. He shot 3-of-12 from the field and 0-of-6 from beyond the arc.
Terry Rozier instead led the Hornets in the scoring department. He finished with 23 points while shooting 10-19 from three. Number two overall pick Brandon Miller followed closely with 22 points.
“As a coach you want to have carry over from the things that you’re working on and it doesn’t always produce the wins when you want them to, but I thought overall, we earned this win tonight because did a lot of things that we had been working on to a high level,” said Vaughn. “The physicality, the shot selection, the pace, when you establish those things on the road, generally good things happen after that.”
Milestone (Cam) Watch
As noted above, Cam Thomas is making Nets and NBA history. His start is nearly unparalleled. There’s more, per NetsPR (which was smoking tonight):
- Cam Thomas (33 points) has recorded 30+ points in each of the first three games of the season. Youngest players in NBA history to score 30+ points in each of their team’s first three games of a season: Shaquille O’Neal - 21 years, 248 days; Cam Thomas - 22 years, 17 days. Shaq shot 72.3% during his streak (all 2-pointers obviously) while Thomas has shot 70.5%.
- Most points scored in the first three games of a season in the franchise’s NBA history: 113 points - Kyrie Irving - 2019-20; 99 points - Cam Thomas - 2023-24; 99 points - Kevin Durant - 2021-22. Thomas has shot 61.4% from the field, including 70.5% from 2-point range.
- Cam Thomas is now averaging 33.0 points, which is fourth in the NBA, topped only by Luka Doncic, 39.5; Donovan Mitchell, 35.0, and Steph Curry. 33.5.
- Ben Simmons finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists tonight. Players in franchise history with 25+ rebounds and 25+ assists in the first three games of a season: Simmons - 2023-24; Jason Kidd - 2007-08; Jason Kidd - 2002-03.
- The Nets have out-rebounded their opponent in each of their first three games of the season (by 7+ rebounds in each game) with a total rebound advantage of +26. Brooklyn was +7 on the glass eight times all of last season, including twice in 28 games after the trade deadline.
- The Nets have had three straight games of 20+ fastbreak points. They didn’t record 20+ fastbreak points in three straight games at any point during the 2022-23 season.
We’ve yet to receive word on Dinwiddie’s injury but the Nets are calling it a left ankle sprain. Lonnie Walker IV took most of his minutes during the second half, so you can expect to see more of him in Dinwiddie’s leave as the Nets move forward if he misses time.
As mentioned beforehand Claxton and Johnson did not play tonight. The Nets already ruled them both out for Brooklyn’s next game. Johnson also won’t be revalued for another 10 days after the Nets got imaging back that prompted them to upgrade his calf contusion to a calf strain.
The Nets will continue their road trip on Wednesday, heading to South Beach for a date with the Miami Heat. The Nets swept the Heat last year.
Two of those three wins against the Eastern Conference champs came against Brooklyn’s more current rendition of the team. So the narrative that only Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are responsible for that feat should be put to bed.
- Box Score: Brooklyn Nets 133, Charlotte Hornets 121 - NBA
- Game Highlights: Brooklyn Nets 133, Charlotte Hornets 121 (Video) - NBA
- Post-Game: Nets win, 133-121 (Video) - Chris Shearn & Frank Isola (Video) - YES Network
- Cam Thomas talks his performance (Video) - Meghan Triplett - YES Network
- Cam Thomas on the Nets victory (Video) - YES Network
- Jacque Vaughn on win over Hornets (Video) - YES Network
- Frank Isola on the week that was (Video) - YES Network
- Cam Thomas scores 33, Nets use big 1st quarter to beat Hornets 133-121 for 1st win - Steve Reed - AP
- Cam Thomas eclipses 30 again, Nets down Hornets - Reuters
- Nets go small to snag first win of season against Hornets - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Ben Simmons helps Nets race past Hornets - Evan Barnes - Newsday
- Why the Nets’ defense has been part of the team’s slow start - Evan Barnes - Newsday
- Ben Simmons’ big night, Cam Thomas’ latest 30-point game sting Hornets in Nets’ first win - Peter Sblendorio - New York Daily News
- Nets figuring out how to finish games without clear-cut superstar - Peter Sblendorio - New York Daily News
- Nets’ Thomas 2nd-youngest with 30-pt. trifecta to start season - ESPN
- Nets Injury Tracker: Spencer Dinwiddie leaves game vs. Hornets with left ankle sprain - SNY