Cam Thomas provides spark for Nets
Rookie comes off bench to help Brooklyn past Cleveland
Rookie Cam Thomas proved he could fill up the scoresheet during the Brooklyn Nets’ Summer League participation as well as the preseason and his stint in the G-League.
But Monday night in front of 17,387 fans at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Thomas showed the NBA that he was quite capable of filling it up at any level.
Thomas came off the bench to score eight of his career-high 11 points in the third quarter as the Nets used a late surge to top the Cavaliers, 117-112, for their third consecutive victory.
“I got in and I got looks,” said Thomas, who hadn’t scored more than four points in any of his previous four appearances for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets (13-5).
The Louisiana State alum, who paced the Southeastern Conference in scoring last year, put up 27 points per contest in Las Vegas this past summer as the Nets’ first-round pick, grabbing co-Most Valuable Player honors.
He also averaged 14 points per game during the exhibition slate, including a 21-point effort vs. the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 3, before putting up an eye-popping 46-point performance for the Long Island Nets last Saturday.
But none of that was as impressive, or as important to the Nets, as his second-half burst in Cleveland.
The 20-year-old shooting guard was instrumental during a game-changing 13-2 third-quarter run that put Brooklyn in front, 84-82, entering the fourth quarter.
Thomas completed a three-point play, drilled a 3-pointer and hit a nine-foot floater to highlight the burst for the Nets, who have won 11 of their last 13 games overall.
“When (Kevin Durant) or James (Harden) kicked it to me, I knocked it down,” said Thomas, who finished 4-of-7 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range, pulled down three boards and blocked a shot in 15 minutes off the bench.
“It’s good to have a young dude like Cam who is into it,” added Durant, who led Brooklyn with 27 points after missing Friday’s win over Orlando at Barclays Center with a sprained right shoulder.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and 11 boards and Harden added 14 points and a season-high 14 assists for the Nets, who will try to get off to a faster start Wednesday night in Boston against the rival Celtics.
“Sometimes, it takes a little while for them to get going. I wish it didn’t,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said “They found themselves in a hole, but they’re proud and they responded.”
As did Thomas, who gave the Nets a scoring option off the bench on a night they needed every bit of offense against a Cleveland team that was up to the challenge.
Brooklyn was without injured sharpshooter Joe Harris (ankle) for a fourth straight game against the Cavs.
“Without Joe, we were down a shooter and a spacer, so we had to go with some different lineups and some different guys. Cam was great,” said Nash. “He stepped up with confidence to take shots.
“I think he’s a kid we all love and think has a bright future but sometimes these early stages in the season and you’re in tight games, it’s difficult with some of the mistakes that are just inevitable with these young guys.
Tonight, we hung in there, made some big shots for us and I thought he was really aware defensively. I was proud of him tonight.”
And Thomas remains the consummate scorer, regardless of the setting.
“I always had that confidence. Whenever coach puts me in, I just try to be ready at all times,” he insisted.
“The 46 (points in the G-League Saturday) didn’t really do anything tonight. It was just my role on that team and tonight, I just had the opportunity to have a chance, coach put me in and I made the most of it.”
With Kyrie Irving in vaccination-mandate exile and Harris still on the mend, the Nets are hoping Thomas continues to take advantage of his opportunities.
NOTHING BUT NET: The Nets improved to 7-2 on the road this season with Monday’s win, and will ride a four-game road winning streak into Boston Wednesday night. … Following its visit to Beantown, Brooklyn will return Downtown Saturday to open a four-game homestand vs. defending Western Conference-champion Phoenix. On Tuesday, the Nets will host the Knicks in the first meeting between the local rivals this year.