Streaking Thomas paces Nets to first win
Guard scores 30-plus for third straight game in Charlotte
Cam Thomas’ scoring spree continued Monday night in Charlotte.
And the Brooklyn Nets’ season-opening two-game losing streak ended there as well.
Thomas scored 33 points, his third straight game with at least 30 to open the campaign, and the Nets built a big first-quarter lead en route to their first win of the year, a 133-121 triumph over the Hornets in front of 14,491 fans at the Spectrum Center.
“We know he has ability to score the basketball, but it has not been forced,” Vaughn said of Thomas, who poured in 36 points on Opening Night at Barclays Center against Cleveland and added 30 in a los at Dallas Friday.
“It’s been within the flow of the offense,” Vaughn added. “And then at certain times when we need a bucket and he is capable of doing that also.”
The Nets (1-2) led by as many as 21 points during the first quarter and ended the period with a 42-23 cushion.
Thomas, who started his second straight game after coming off the bench at Barclays Center last Wednesday, went 10-of-17 from the floor and 12-of-14 at the line in a season-high 38 minutes on the hardwood.
The fourth-year shooting guard out of Louisiana State had his team option exercised last week. Now, Thomas has a chance to stick in the starting lineup, but Brooklyn needed every bit of his scoring on a night starters Cam Johnson (calf) and Nic Claxton (ankle) weren’t available.
Terry Rozier scored 23 points and rookie Brandon Miller added 22 off the bench for the Hornets (1-2), who gave up 28 fast-break points and went 8-of-31 from 3-point range while allowing the Nets to bury 12 shots from beyond the arc.
“We took some quick 3s without putting any pressure on the defense, and they got it and were gone,” Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford said. “It was definitely the defense, but a lot of that I think was our shot selection early on.”
Mikal Bridges had 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting and Dorian Finney-Smith and Lonnie Walker IV added 19 apiece.
Finney-Smith knocked down a quartet of 3s as Brooklyn shook off its first 0-2 start since beginning the 2015-16 season with seven straight defeats.
Day’Ron Sharpe finished with 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench and Ben Simmons had his best all-around game of the year thus far with 11 points, 10 boards and eight assists.
But the Nets relied most heavily on Thomas for the third straight game as he continued to gain the type of confidence that could make him a bonafide threat for opposing defenses to consider when preparing for the Nets.
“So he is learning how to survey the game and when we need him to score and when he needs to facilitate,” noted Vaughn.
Thomas led the Southeastern Conference in scoring during his final year at LSU and lit up the Summer League in Las Vegas during his first several seasons in Brooklyn.
Now, he is getting the types of looks reserved for former Nets superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but is still picking and choosing his spots on the floor carefully.
“I think it was just our spacing,” Thomas said of his most recent display of offensive firepower.
“We played a lot of small ball and a lot of five-out,,” he added. “That opened up a lot of driving lanes for us. The bigs were pulled out and it gave the guards a lot of driving lanes.”
The Nets, who improved to 1-1 on their four-game road trip, will be in Miami on Wednesday.
NOTHING BUT NET: Vaughn revealed Monday that Johnson, who strained his left calf in Dallas, will be out at least 10 days with the injury. “I had hoped (he would be back) but reality set in a little bit,” Vaughn told the Associated Press. “We ended up getting an MRI, so we are just waiting on those results after the contusion just to be safe. We will reevaluate him in 10 days and see what he looks like from there.” … Spencer Dinwiddie left Monday’s game in the second quarter and did not return with an apparent ankle injury. Vaughn said he would be reevaluated Tuesday. … After visiting the Heat, the Nets will wrap up their trip Friday night in Chicago. They will return to Barclays Center on Saturday night to open a three-game homestand vs. Boston.
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