Rag-tag Nets battle valiantly in loss to Nuggets: 3 Takeaways

Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas
Jan 26, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas (24) drives to the basket on Denver Nuggets guard Austin Rivers (25) during the fourth quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets dropped their second consecutive game at the Barclays Center in a 124-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets. The loss ended up being much closer than many people had anticipated without any member of the Nets’ “Big 3” in the lineup.

Rookie Cam Thomas finished the night with a career-high 25 points, while Patty Mills had 21 points of his own. LaMarcus Aldridge had 14 points on the night and had 6 assists.

Wednesday’s loss wrapped up a two-game homestand and now the Nets head out west for a five-game road trip through Golden State, Pheonix, Sacramento, Utah and end in Denver. Here are three takeaways from the game.

The Devil is in the Details

There won’t be any Disney movies made about the rag-tag bunch of Nets that valiantly battled a much stronger Nuggets squad, but the Nets held their own and even led at one point by 11 on Wednesday night. No Kevin Durant, no Kyrie Irving and no James Harden, who was out with hamstring tightness, but still the Nets competed.

Brooklyn led 65-54 at halftime and held all-star Nikola Jokic to just seven first-half points. Jokic finished the game with 26 and was able to knock down key shots in the second half, even as the undermanned Nets squad kept things interesting. Denver scored 42 third-quarter points and ended the period with a 96-91 lead, but Brooklyn managed to tie it at 99 in the fourth and then pull within three late.

The Nets, playing their second game in as many nights, just seemed to run out of gas in the end.

“Details, just details,” Nets coach Steve Nash said about the last few minutes of the game. “I’m proud of the guy’s effort. The activity, the response 24 hours later from last night was great, but the details. We talked about it last night and some of that is we have a bunch of guys playing together that haven’t played many minutes together all year. There’s some cohesion that is lacking and some understanding and some familiarity in some sense. That’s why we have to improve, especially with guys out of the lineup, is really lock in on the details.

“We got a lot of guys who are traditionally role players that are playing bigger minutes, more responsibility and we have to make sure we can improve those details. And accept a little bit more responsibility. … It’s up to us now to chip away at the details.

Cam Thomas’ Big Night

The rookie guard stepped up for the Nets in a big way with his new career-high points total in 26 minutes of work off the bench. It’s no secret that Thomas can shoot, and on a night that the Nets needed everyone to answer the call without Harden on the court, he did.

Thomas shot 8-of-14 shooting from the field on Wednesday and 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. The Brooklyn guard told reporters after the game that nothing different or had changed in the amount of work he’s done on his three-point shot, he just had more time on the court to get into a better rhythm in the loss to the Nuggets.

As far as his mindset without the Nets’ “Big 3” on the court, nothing changed.

“Just go out there and do what you gotta do. Just play as hard as you can and you play hard it will just fall in place,” Thomas said. “That’s what we try to do. We can move the ball and it will all fall in place, and it did. We just came up a little short.”

Carter Back on the Floor

On the same day that a report suggested Jevon Carter could be traded at the deadline, the Nets’ guard was back on the floor playing extended minutes. Another product of the circumstances on Wednesday in Brooklyn, Carter played well especially when it came to his shooting from beyond the arc.

Carter shot 3-for-7 from three-point range after not hitting a shot from downtown since Jan. 7.

“We need him to come in and hit those threes for us” DeAndre’ Bembry said. “That’s his game. J.C. has always been a good three-point shooter if you watched his game, and him being able to get out there and actually do it works out and helps us.”

As far as the lack of playing time that Carter has gotten, Bembry knows that he has been disappointed by it, but hasn’t let it impact things in a negative way.

“He’s a professional,” Bembry said. “Obviously he’s one of the guys who wasn’t able to get as many minutes as he wanted throughout the season, so he’s been down a little bit on that, but that’s what J.C. does. He shoots threes. Obviously, he’s not getting minutes that he wants, but he’s confident.”