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Nets rattle off third-straight victory, handling business against Rockets, 118-96

Brooklyn Nets v Houston Rockets Photo by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

Don’t look now, but the Brooklyn Nets are on a three-game win streak.

Brooklyn took down the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, 118-96, for the new-look Nets’ third straight win. The Nets now sit 37-28 on the season and are comfortably ahead — by 2.5 games — over the Miami Heat for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and only a game behind the Knicks for the fifth with 17 games to go. Brooklyn’s three-game win streak is tied for the longest streak in their conference (the Philadelphia 76ers have always won three consecutive games).

Mikal Bridges reached 30 points for his third-straight showing, with 13 of those points coming in the fourth quarter.

“He is the ultimate competitor,” said head coach Jacque Vaughn about Bridges after the game. “I love that piece about him. He plays every single night. I love that piece about him. That ability to contribute as a teammate. He is very unselfish. He gives up time of his knowledge in the locker room during the games, so it’s really been a joy to be around him and learn him as an individual.”

Nic Claxton got on the board with his 22nd double-double of the season with 18 points to go with 13 rebounds on a nice 8-of-9 shooting line, including five dunks, a couple of monsters that bring his total for the season to 147, sixth in the NBA and four more than he had in his first three years combined. The boss liked what he saw...

“He works on it every day. I mean, we trust him to make plays,” said Royce O’Neale about Claxton. “I think just him being confident in himself and making the right reads, whether he’s scoring or passing.”

Brooklyn’s bench unit was also massively productive. Royce O’Neale (3-of-6 from the field), Joe Harris (4-of-7 from three), newcomer Nerlens Noel (1-of-1 on field goals), and Seth Curry (4-of-6 from the field) combined for 37 points. Houston’s reserves, meanwhile, mustered up just 21 points.

“Really, that second quarter was a big difference maker for us,” said Vaughn. “That group—(Cam Johnson), Seth was out there, Joe was out there—they really shifted the momentum, our direction, especially going into halftime. Their ability to get stops and get out in transition and create pace was huge. But a big part of that was the guys that were out there playing. So the depth definitely paid dividends tonight.”

Houston was led by youngsters Jalen Green, with 25 points, and Alperen Sengun, who recorded 16 points and 12 rebounds on 50% shooting from the field.

As a team, the Nets outpaced Houston in both shooting from the field (49.4% to 43.4%), 3-point shooting (37.5% to 26.9%), and free-throw shooting (79.3% to 70.8%). Folks, there is a reason, after all, that Houston is the second-worst team in the league according to win percentage.

“We made an adjustment as far as this shrinking the floor more, putting more bodies in front of the basketball. So that was huge on our defensive end the floor, and then that allows us to get out and run a little bit so bit,” said Vaughn about Brooklyn’s adjustments that grinded Houston’s offense to a halt.

That said, the Rockets got off to a hot start on a 12-2 run. Sengun mechanically broke down Claxton, in particular, for 10 points in the first quarter on 4-of-5 shooting. Spencer Dinwiddie was very involved in the Nets' offense and dictated most of Brooklyn’s possessions resulting in a game-high 13 points. Houston finished ahead in the first quarter, up 32-27.

Brooklyn’s bench checked in and immediately got to work. Harris, O’Neale, Noel, and Curry began the game a combined 8-of-9 from the field, and the Nets as a team began the second quarter on an 18-2 run. Houston began to chip away at Brooklyn’s 11-point lead and eventually tied things up at the 40-second mark after Jabari Smith Jr. tipped in a rebound. Dinwiddie hit a layup through four Rockets’ arms and Bridges hit a three-pointer with the buzzer sounding after a pump-fake, giving the Nets a 59-54 lead at halftime.

Brooklyn began the third quarter on a 14-3 run as Dinwiddie continued his rhythmic scoring on two pretty finishes inside the paint, one of which was an and-1, and a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer to give him 23 points with a full quarter and a half to go. The Nets were able to extend that lead to a whopping 20 points by the five-minute mark in the third. Harris continued his ridiculous shooting from deep with two made threes. Brooklyn finished the quarter ahead 92-78.

Brooklyn mostly maintained its 20-point advantage in the fourth quarter. In fact, the only real highlight of the quarter was that Bridges reached 30 points for the fifth time in eight games, scoring 13 points in the quarter. Brooklyn cruised across the finish line for the win against the Victor Wembanyama-hopeful Houston Rockets.

Milestone watch

  • With the 118-96 victory against Houston, this was the first time this season that Brooklyn has won three-straight games by double-digit points, something they didn’t even do in their 12-game streak back in December and January.
  • Royce O’Neale notched his third double-double of the season with 13 points and a season-high 11 rebounds.
  • Mikal Bridges extended his career-best streak of 30+ points to three games. Bridges has dropped at least 30 points in five is his last eight games played.
  • Nic Claxton recorded his 22nd double-double of the season. In his three previous seasons, he tallied just 5 total double-doubles.
  • Joe Harris is shooting 55% (27-of-49) since the trade deadline after Tuesday’s 4-of-7 performance from deep. Harris has once again moved into third place all-time in 3-point percentage behind only Steve Kerr and Hubie Davis. He is also the leading active player, just ahead of Seth Curry.
  • Bridges set an NBA record by averaging 25.5 points with shooting splits of 52.6/48.1/92.2 in his first 10 games with the Nets. No NBA player had ever scored 25 points on 50/40/90 splits in his first 10 games with a new team.

Nerlens Noel debuts with two points, three rebounds

Nerlens Noel played 17:48 minutes scoring two points and grabbing three broads, his longest stretch on the court since he played 3:22 before his buyout with Detroit on March 1. He said he felt good.

“It felt good to get some rust off. Yeah, a little winded in the first minutes, but it’s normal,” said the 28-year-old. “Nobody can get away from that. But I’ve been doing a fair share. But at this point I just want to keep building on that, defensive-first mentality, rebounding, just try and make sure I bring a winning mentality to the game.”

Prior to the game, Noel, who played two seasons with the Knicks, said he was happy to get back to New York, appreciating the energy the city crowds bring to games. He also praised Nic Claxton.

“Even before I got here [Claxton] was one of my favorite bigs to watch, similar styles, especially early on. And he’s just getting better and better,” Noel said. “I’m in his corner and I want to help him continue to develop the right way. He’s balling

What’s next

Brooklyn heads off to Milwaukee for the first half of a midwest back-to-back on Thursday. Brooklyn then plays Minnesota on the road the very next night. Coverage for Thursday’s game against the Bucks starts at 8 PM EST on the YES Network.

For a different perspective on tonight’s game, head to The Dream Shake, our Rockets sister site.