Thomas makes history, but Suns burn Nets
Cam's record-setting spree continues in loss to Phoenix
Cam Thomas can’t be stopped, but the rest of the Nets are experiencing a malaise with Kevin Durant still on the mend and Kyrie Irving in Dallas.
Thomas became the youngest player in NBA history with three consecutive 40-point efforts, putting up 43 in Brooklyn’s second straight loss, a 116-112 setback to the surging Phoenix Suns Tuesday night in front of 17,093 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
The 21-year-old Thomas, who poured in 44 points in Saturday’s win over Washington and 47 more Monday night in a tough loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, went 11-of-23 from the floor, including 3-of-9 from 3-point range.
With Durant recovering from a sprain of his right collateral ligament and Irving still awaiting his debut with the Mavericks, Thomas kept the Nets in contention throughout by drilling 18-of-20 free throws.
He missed one on purpose with 4.3 seconds remaining and the Nets down 114-112, but the rebound went to Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton, whom Thomas fouled.
Ayton drained both, leaving Thomas and Brooklyn (32-22) to lament another narrow defeat despite the first 40-plus point streak of its kind in Nets history.
“Obviously I’d rather have the win because it sounds better when you have these 40-point games with the two (games) that we lost, but it’s just good to have my name in history,” noted Thomas.
Brooklyn is still waiting for the two players it acquired in the Irving deal, former Net Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finley-Smith, to join the red-hot Thomas in the lineup.
That should happen Thursday night on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush, where the Nets will host Chicago seeking to improve on their 5-8 record since Durant went down to injury on Jan. 8 in Miami.
Ayton scored a career high-tying 35 points and Devin Booker, back from a groin injury that sidelined him since Christmas, added 19 as the Suns (30-26) won for the ninth time in their last 11 contests, improving to 3-0 on their five-game East Coast swing.
“We’re going to have this thing rolling now,” Ayton said. “Suns basketball on the way for sure.”
Nets basketball is in a funk, dropping from second in the Eastern Conference playoff race to fifth since Durant went down.
Last season, Brooklyn was challenging for the top seed in the East before Durant’s left MCL sprain resulted in a 5-18 slump that made the Nets settle for the No. 7 seed and a play-in tournament win over Cleveland before Boston swept them out of the postseason in the opening round.
Brooklyn head coach Jacque Vaughn continues to insist that the Nets have “no excuses” for slipping in the standings without Durant, but the superstar’s return is clearly needed for them to climb back up.
Vaughn indicated before Tuesday’s tilt that Durant is nearing the point where he can participate in contact drills in practice.
With four games to go before the annual All-Star break, the Nets would love to see their best player back in uniform and on the hardwood prior to their week off from Feb. 16-23.
Dinwiddie, a fan favorite and very productive player here from 2016 to 2021, had a sense of humor when asked how he and Finley-Smith might affect Brooklyn’s playoff hopes going forward.
“Understanding that we may not be the best trade package, but we are the best-looking and the Nets needed some help in that department,” he jabbed.
It’s starting to look a little ugly here in Brooklyn, but not if you imagine Durant, Dinwiddie and the surprising Thomas contributing on a nightly basis.
NOTHING BUT NET: The Nets are not done dealing ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. Brooklyn announced Tuesday that it had acquired the draft rights to David Michineau from Sacramento for forward Kessler Edwards and cash considerations. Michineau, picked in the second round of the 2016 Draft by New Orleans, is currently playing professionally in Italy. … T.J. Warren scored 17 points and Nic Claxton added 17 and 13 rebounds in Tusday’s loss. … After hosting the Bulls here Thursday, the Nets will finish off this five-game homestand Saturday night vs. Philadelphia. Brooklyn will be at Madison Square Garden Monday night to take on the arch rival New York Knicks.
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