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Cam Thomas 47 points not enough as Nets lose tough one to Clippers, 124-116

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LA Clippers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Cam Thomas. That’s the story, period.

It wasn’t quite enough, but in an exhilarating performance, Cam Thomas scored 47 points on 15-of-29 shooting Monday night, fittingly the first night in the post-Kyrie Irving era, but the Nets lost, 124-116 at Barclays Center.

Thomas has now scored 91 points in the Nets last two games, having crushed the Wizards two nights ago with a 44-point performance. In doing so, Thomas became the second youngest player in NBA history to score back-to-back 40-point games. Only LeBron James did it at a younger age, besting Thomas by 24 days. In fact, Thomas surpassed the previous No. 2, teammate Kevin Durant. The other two players on the list of five youngest: Allen Iverson and Luka Doncic.

Here’s the details, from YES Network...

On being told of his accomplishment, Thomas had this to say...

“For real? For real? That’s great company to have my name mentioned with that guy, though I’m a Kobe guy. If you said Kobe, I’d be more…no I’m kidding. It’s great company,” Thomas joked. “He’s about to break the all-time scoring record in two games or one game. I’m just glad to have my name mentioned with him this young.”

On a more serious note, Thomas had this to say about how he’s made the most of this opportunity.

“I love to hoop, man. Obviously, I want to play in the real games. Who doesn’t? Can’t tell me one person who don’t want to play in a real NBA game, that’s foolish,” he told the media post-game.

Thomas scored in every which way, hitting 7-of-11 from deep but he also got to the line repeatedly, hitting 10-of-11 of his free throws and generally dominating play, his well-honed confidence driving him time after time despite being double-teamed and bounced around by Clippers defenders.

And his highlights weren’t limited to scoring...

“I think it just reinforces our belief in him, overall his belief in his own game to be able to showcase it and to answer when we needed it most,” said Jacque Vaughn post-game. “We needed his scoring, his ability to playmake and he provided for us definitely these last two games.”

“I have some new school and old school in me. Hopefully, I’m able to use it at the right time,” said Vaughn on utilizing Thomas more down the line. “I think for young guys to go through something so they can get to the other side. There’s something to that. There’s something to not playing and putting in the work and doing it when you don’t get your results at your timing and Cam has shown himself.

“He joked the other day that he’s the all-time leading scorer in our stay-ready group so he put in a lot of work and he’s getting rewarded for it. And maybe it wasn’t at the timing of others, maybe it wasn’t even at his timing. But he’s taking advantage of it and sometimes that’s just the way it works out.”

Thomas wasn’t the only young Net to take advantage of opportunities. Edmond Sumner, 27, scored 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including 2-of-3 from deep to go along with five rebounds and three assists. Sumner, who scored a career high 29 vs. the Wizards, had back-to-back 20 point games for the first time in his career. And Nic Claxton, 23, who got off to a slow start (and by halftime was rumored to be a trade target of the Raptors), finished with 15 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks including this double domination of Paul Leonard...

And this coast-to-coast number...

Claxton wound up with his 20th double-double of the season.

Brooklyn was hit by injuries and a general lack of personnel in facing the Clippers led by healthy all-Everything wings Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Kyrie Irving and Markieff Morris were in Dallas by the time the Nets-Mavs trade became official just before 6:00 p.m. ET while the Nets return on the deal, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith, weren’t cleared in time. Three other Nets — Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons and Seth Curry — all sat with injuries.

The game was tight from the beginning with the Nets going out in front early and then trading leads throughout the game with the Nets biggest lead eight points and the Clippers 11. Then, in the fourth quarter, things got interesting but in the end, it was the Clippers poise that won out.

After a number of futile tries, the Nets tied the game at 99 in the middle of the quarter, helped by five quick points from Thomas. Then, it seemed like the Nets would take control after back-to-back threes by Joe Harris and Edmond Sumner put the Nets up 107-99. Barclays Center erupted and Ty Lue called a Clippers timeout.

In the end, though, experience won out over youthful excitement.

Leonard and Reggie Jackson hit back-to-back shots, getting LA within three. Leonard also made a pair of free throws to cut the lead to one one-point game Ivica Zubac’s hook gave the Clippers back the lead.

Thomas made a valiant attempt to take over, scoring six straight to give the Nets their last lead before the Clippers held on for the win. Thomas missed a couple of shots that would have brought the Nets closer — and give him a 50 piece. Indeed, late sloppiness and the Clippers steadiness won it. The Nets are now 5-8 since Kevin Durant went down.

Thomas came up clutch again scoring Brooklyn’s next six points to put the Nets back in front, but the Clippers managed to retake the lead and hold on. Thomas and Claxton both missed shots in the final minute that would have closed the gap.

Paul George finished with 29 points, Kawhi Leonard 24 and Ivica Zubac 19 for the Clippers.

Milestone Watch

Cam Time!

  • Cam Thomas became the fourth player age 21 or younger with more than 90 points in a 2-game span in NBA history. Lebron James (2x), Devin Booker (2x), and Allen Iverson are the others.
  • Players to score 40+ points in consecutive games this season:

—Giannis Antetokounmpo

—Devin Booker

—Stephen Curry

—Anthony Davis

—Joel Embiid

—LeBron James

—Damian Lillard

—Cam Thomas

Notably not on the list: Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving.

  • Thomas is the fifth player in the franchise’s NBA history to score 40+ points in consecutive games.
  • Over the past four games, Thomas is averaging 32.8 points a game, the first three games coming off the bench, shooting 56.8% overall and 57.1% from 3-point range. Thomas is also now shooting 43.9% from deep for the season, after shooting 27.0% last season.
  • Thomas now has as many regular season 40-point games as James Harden did during his year with Brooklyn: two.
  • Nic Claxton’s 16 rebounds were a career-high.

Jacque Vaughn on Kevin Durant

Jacque Vaughn said pre-game that he and Kevin Durant haven’t talked about Kyrie Irving’s departure but that in conversations with his superstar anchor, Durant had expressed enthusiasm about the team’s progress.

“My conversation with Kev basically was based around the [Wizards] game and how our group pulled together to get a win,” he said. “He was enthusiastic about how our guys played, how Cam [Thomas] played, so our conversations really kind of geared toward that direction.”

Moreover, Vaughn said that Durant just wants to play, wants to win.

”At the end of the day, Kevin just wants to win,” Vaughn said. “That’s been our goal. He wants to win at shootaround, he wants to win any game of the week. That’s why he loves to play, and that’s why he wants to play 82 games. That will be our holy grail. We’ll continue to put a group out that wins and until there’s something for me to be concerned about, then I’ll carry on business as usual.”

Durant sat on the Nets bench, wearing his signature pink beanies and grey hoodie. He left before the media could ask him detailed question about the trade, but Vaughn said that Durant said that he liked the fight the Nets showed tonight.

“I won’t complicate it. Like I said, I’m going to coach the group that’s in front of me and to coach the group that’s in the locker room. That won’t change,” said Vaughn. “I’m not going to speculate and get in Kevin’s mind at all. Not gonna even try to do that. I’m going to coach this group. I look forward to coaching him and look forward to winning.”

Durant has yet to comment on either Irving’s trade or his future with the team.

Getting healthier

Jacque Vaughn said that Ben Simmons could’ve played vs. the Clippers but with the back-to-back, he wanted to rest him so he can be ready for the Suns game on Tuesday. Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith are also expected to be uniform.

Kevin Durant underwent a re-evaluation of his sprained MCL on Monday. Vaughn said pre-game there was a limited possibility that he would have an update after the game. Instead, he told reporters the Nets will provide the update on Tuesday. Seth Curry remains out with an adductor strain.

Mayor Adams on Kyrie’s departure

There was no more famous New Yorker opposed to Mayor Eric Adams vaccine mandates than Kyrie Irving. His decision not to get vaccinated — which led to his suspension — even attracted hundreds of anti-vaxxers to an ugly protest outside Barclays Center on opening night of the season in October 2021.

So when Irving was sent to Dallas Monday, Adams was asked by NY1 about Irving. He did not mince words.

“I will find the team that beats us the most and send him to that team, because then we’ll start beating that team.”

“It’s about synergy in energy. No matter how much talent you have, your ability to interact with your colleagues is more important,” Adams continued. “One player can bring down the synergy of the team — and so I would send him to the team that beats us the most so we can start winning better.”

Here’s the video...

Dru debut

The game also marked the Nets debut of Dru Smith, the 6’3” combo guard who the Nets signed as a two-way last month. Smith, who played five games with the Heat earlier in the season, quickly made an impression as a reliable back-up, with four rebounds and four assists in 13 minutes. He also hit his first shot as a Net, finishing with two points.

Talking Kyrie

Both Cam Thomas and Nic Claxton spoke after the trade was announced about what they’ll miss about Kyrie Irving.

“Everything really,” Thomas said. “That’s my guy we talked about it a lot. We talked about Kobe. Just life in general man. That’s really the main thing that I will miss from Kai is me having that big brother on the team to laugh with, joke with and make fun with. He’s my big brother. Even though K [Kevin Durant] is my big brother for real, me and Kai made more jokes together. I can joke around with Kai.” said Thomas.

“That’s still my brother, my mentor. We’ll continue to have a close relationship off the court. Our relationship always transcended basketball. He was one of the best teammates I’ve had, despite what people wanted to say,” said Claxton.

And on the business of basketball, Brooklyn-style, the four-year veteran had this to say.

“It’s been a whirlwind I’ve become all too familiar with being here for four years. But I can’t control it and you have to just keep rolling with it. You come out here and you still have a job to do every single night,”

Claxton also praised Spencer Dinwiddie who was a teammate for two years, including his rookie year in 2019-20.

“My first year playing with Spence was really good for me. He really looked for me out there on the court. Now, I’m 10 times better than I was then,” said Claxton.

During that year, Dinwiddie famously said this about Claxton: “Nic is the second-most talented player on this team. [First] is KD, either the first or second most talented scorer of all-time. But Nic’s got game. He’s got a chance [to be great].”

As SpongeBob might say...

What’s Next?

Back to work tomorrow night at Barclays Center where the Nets will face the Suns at 7:30 p.m. ET on YES and TNT.

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