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Nets pick up first home win against Clippers, Harden

Survive L.A.'s superstar quartet for first win at Barclays

November 9, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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For the first time in four visits this season, fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center spilled out onto the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush with smiles on their faces and a victory in their pockets.

Lonnie Walker IV scored 21 points off the bench as the Nets overcame a sluggish first quarter and an injury to Cam Thomas en route to their first home win of the year, a 100-93 triumph over James Harden and the Los Angeles Clippers in front of a sellout crowd of 17,933 happy customers.

Losers of their first three contests at Barclays and on the verge of absorbing an 0-3 homestand, the Nets (4-4) fell behind 21-13 after 12 minutes as the Clippers (3-4) finished the opening quarter on an 11-2 run.

“I think we were pretty stagnant at the beginning of the game just overall offensively, and that affected us on both ends of the floor,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn ceded.

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Bloodied but unbowed, Brooklyn crawled back to pull within three at the half and rose to every challenge following intermission behind nine fourth-quarter points from back-up center Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker’s most necessary effort of the young campaign.

The 24-year-old shooting guard, who signed with the Nets this summer after spending his previous five NBA seasons in San Antonio and Los Angeles with the Lakers, hit half of his 16 field-goal attempts, including a trio of 3-pointers.

Walker leads Brooklyn’s “Bench Mob” with 15.5 points per contest and fell one shy of his best output as a reserve, a 22-point effort at Miami on Oct. 18.

“Just a lot of self-confidence,” Walker said of his early season surge off the bench. “Understanding my capabilities. I really put a lot of time and effort into the game. I sacrifice a lot of time and effort into the game. What you put in is what you’re going to get out of it.”

Thomas, who scored 14 points in the first half after putting up a season-high 45 in Monday’s loss to Milwaukee, left this one early in the third quarter after spraining his ankle on a drive to the basket.

His status going forward was not immediately available, but Brooklyn was again without injured starters Nic Claxton (ankle) and Cam Johnson (calf), putting even more emphasis on the performance of their reserves.

Reserves Day’Ron Sharpe and Dennis Smith Jr., were a major part of the Nets’ first home win of the year Wednesday. AP Photo by Frank Franklin II

Guarding a 73-71 lead entering the fourth quarter, the Nets turned to Sharpe, who hit a pair of free throws, made a putback off a rebound, converted a three-point play and drove for a layup to give Brooklyn an 89-79 cushion with 6:42 to play.

Los Angeles stormed back to cut the deficit to four points on Kawhi Leonard’s 7-footer with 1:55 remaining.

But Spencer Dinwiddie answered with a 3-pointer and Royce O’Neale did the same with 18.1 ticks left to give the Nets a 100-90 lead, providing a sigh of relief for their previously frustrated fans.

“We all, as a collective group, just stepped up,” Sharpe told the Associated Press.

Harden, who spent parts of two seasons here before being shipped to Philadelphia in February 2022, heard derisive chants from the crowd throughout before finishing with 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists in his second straight loss since getting dealt to Los Angeles.

Paul George scored a game-high 24 points, Leonard added 17 and Russell Westbrook had 13 and eight assists for the Clippers, who dropped their third in a row.

Los Angeles is admittedly in the process of getting used to its four-superstar system.

“We’re going to go through growing pains,” noted George. “We’re going to come out of this and we’ll probably have to make another adjustment based on how the season goes later in the year.”

Dorian Finney-Smith and O’Neale each put up 12 points, Sharpe finished with 11 and 10 rebounds and Bridges added 10 points to go with eight boards and seven assists for the Nets, who will head to Boston Friday night knowing they got off the schneid here in Brooklyn.

They also inspired their coach, who had to watch his top scorer go down after his team came out of the gate looking like it would fall to 0-4 at Barclays.

“It is why I like doing this man,” Vaughn gushed. “To get a bunch of dudes together to try to have a common goal and be unselfish on a nightly basis and try to get a win together and compete harder than the dude in front of you. That’s the greatest part of team sports right there.”

Brooklyn fans gave James Harden the business and sent his new Clippers teammates back to Los Angeles with their third straight loss. AP Photo by Frank Franklin II

NOTHING BUT NET: After visiting the Celtics on Friday, the Nets will be right back in Brooklyn Sunday afternoon to host Washington before welcoming Orlando here on Tuesday. … Brooklyn beat L.A. on the offensive glass, 14-11, with Sharpe grabbing four of those boards. … The Nets outscored the Clippers by 10 points when Walker was on the floor while Harden finished at minus-15 with his new teammates Wednesday.

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