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The win streak is over. Nets lose, 124-106, to Knicks

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Brooklyn Nets v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It finally happened.

The Brooklyn Nets lost to the New York Knicks, 124-106, breaking Brooklyn’s 9-game win streak against their crosstown rival. The last time New York was able to take down Brooklyn was way back in 2019, the first year that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were Brooklyn Nets. Talk about a symbolic way to indicate that the 7/11 era is, indeed, over. This was also the first time that Cam Thomas, Nic Claxton, and Ben Simmons lost to the Knicks in their NBA careers.

It was a strange game for the Nets. Adding Mikal Bridges, Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Cam Johnson for Durant and Irving—a 2-for-4 swap—has thus far been a bit of a double-edged sword. Sure, Brooklyn’s rotation has greatly been bolstered, making the Nets one of the deepest teams in the league. But, it almost feels as if Brooklyn has too many good players to build out a sustainable rotation.

“Yeah, the thing is we have to do it. We got to do it immediately,” said Vaughn about configuring rotations. “So I gotta get a pulse of what the new guys can bring to the team but also try to not break up that rhythm. But it’s always what the group is gonna look like at the end of the day. So we want all of them playing well. So that’s the goal, the mission I’m getting them to do that. I got to put them in the game, I got to see what different lineups feel and look like and see where the holes are in order to really get a good sense of that.”

Here are a couple of examples. Ben Simmons, the headliner of the James Harden trade, saw only 13 minutes on Monday. Nic Claxton, playing at a near-All-Star level before the Durant and Irving trades, only got 22 minutes of floor time. Fan favorite Yuta Watanabe didn’t even get on the court until garbage time. And just wait until Seth Curry returns from injury. Things will get even more complicated. The Nets could have as many as 11 guys deserving of rotation minutes.

Meanwhile, shot creation proved to be an issue for the Nets for the second-straight game, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the lack of star power on the roster. Though Spencer Dinwiddie has stretches of excellent play, he was not particularly efficient with 28 points on 8-of-21 shooting and 3-for-10 from three. Vaughn stated he hoped to see newcomer Bridges and Cam Thomas pick up the slack, though he didn’t sound particularly optimistic about it. Bridges and Thomas shot a combined 4-of-16 from the field. And as a team, the Nets scored just 45 points in the second half.

“It puts a lot of pressure on Spencer as it did tonight. First half he really carried us a little bit. The big piece of it is are we gonna be able to break guys down and create drive and kick opportunities to shoot threes. So some of that pressure is on Spencer to get to the rim, also drive and kick. We’re gonna hopefully be able to do that with Mikal. Cam can do it at times, creating for others,” said Vaughn. “So that piece of it, we’ll figure out.”

And for those of you keeping track at home, the Nets did shoot 41.4% from deep. But only on 29 attempts.

The Knicks, meanwhile, looked like a team with a real-deal All-Star. Jalen Brunson dropped a game-high 40 points on a plethora of tough shots and pull-up jumpers. Cam Johnson made an interesting point about how New York’s starry shot-making fed into the stagnation of Brooklyn’s offense.

“They were scoring. That’s what it is,” said Johnson. “They were scoring so we’re taking the ball out and playing a set defense, so that’s a big part of it. And defensively, they kind of spread us out and attacked us. Obviously, a lot we can adjust and learn from this game, but yeah, that’s one of the big parts of pace is getting stops and being able to run on teams.”

And it was clear the Knicks had that machismo from the very beginning. All-Star Julius Randle had 10 points and his co-star (and All-Star snub) Brunson pitched in 10 as well in the first. Though Spencer Dinwiddie did his part to keep the Nets rolling with 7 points, the Knicks finished the quarter ahead 32-26.

Newcomer Josh Hart made an early impact for the Knicks off the bench in the second, dropping 12 points in 12 minutes on a pair of threes and some nice cuts to the rim. Though the Knicks were able to build a 41-33 in the first two minutes, Spencer Dinwiddie dropped 13 points in the final six minutes of play to give the Nets the advantage at halftime, 61-58.

The Knicks came out firing in the second half and went on a 12-2 run, forcing an early timeout from Vaughn. Dinwiddie started to slow down, leaning into foul-baiting too much and began the half 0-for-2. Nic Claxton broke out of his slow 1-for-6 start in the first half and put up 7 points in three minutes, highlighted by a sweet coast-to-coast finish with his inside hand. But Brunson could not be stopped, hitting a nasty stepback three in over Joe Harris and then another one over Cam Johnson for his 14th and 17th points of the quarter. Behind Brunson’s ridiculous shot-making, the Knicks grew a 10-point lead to finish the third, up 93-83.

Ben Simmons got a short stint in the fourth quarter and was subbed out at the 7:30 mark after two turnovers, one of which came after setting an illegal screen for Cam Johnson for the offensive foul. He did not return and finished with just 2 points, 2 assists, and 3 rebounds in 13 minutes of play, the second-fewest minutes for any of the 10 players that saw the floor for the Nets.

“The rebounding piece we’re always concerned about so didn’t want Ben to be the lone big out there,” said Vaughn about Simmons’ declining playing time. “We tried him with another big, I didn’t like that rhythm of the game because we weren’t scoring enough at that time.”

He added this:

“What we want from each guy is to give everything, every ounce that they’ve got, every single game,” Vaughn said. “And all 16 guys are in that bucket.

“And trying to figure out what lineup fits around Ben, what position fits for Ben, how we can make him look good at every opportunity. That’s the goal, and I’m still trying to figure that out. That’s on me to figure it out. But overall as a team, we’re going to try to find lineups to figure it out.”

Meanwhile, the Knicks only grew their lead on a 19-8 run after the first minute of the fourth. At the 4:19 mark, Vaughn emptied his bench, indicating that the Nets were conceding for their second loss in three games.

Milestone Watch

  • The all-time record between the two teams is now Nets 107, Knicks 102.
  • With his first assist, Spencer Dinwiddie has now recorded 1,474 career assists as a Net, moving past Devin Harris (1,473) into seventh place in the franchise’s NBA history in assists. Next up: Richard Jefferson (1,486).

Mikal Bridges keeps his streak

Mikal Bridges found himself in an odd place last Thursday, sitting courtside in street clothes. Bridges has missed a game since he was a junior in high school, including 366 straight NBA games through last Thursday. Things got murky. Yes, he couldn’t play because the NBA had not yet closed off the big, four-team Kevin Durant trade. So did the streak end?

Nope, says the league. As Brian Mahoney of AP reports...

[T]he league determined that because Bridges wasn’t eligible to play, it shouldn’t count as a missed game. So his streak, the longest active one in the league, reached 367 games when the Nets lost to the New York Knicks on Monday night.

It was a relief for Bridges.

“I wouldn’t really have cared, because I just would have been available for every game I was able to play in. So not like I missed a game where I could play,” Bridges said. “Maybe I’d have looked back and been hot, but I wasn’t really tripping too much.”

And here’s the kicker: because of the NBA schedule, not all teams play at the same rate. So when he left the Mavericks, Bridges had already played in 56 games, two more than the Nets had racked up by then. So even with the lost game on Thursday, Bridges will still play in 83 games this season ... if he doesn’t miss another game.

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

The Nets head home to host the Miami Heat in what should be a pivotal battle for deciding the 5th and 6th seeds in the Eastern Conference... at least for now. Coverage begins at 7:30 PM EST on Wednesday on the YES Network.

For a different perspective on tonight’s game, head to Posting and Toasting, our Knicks sister site.