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Cam Thomas carries Nets to OT win in D.C.

Returns from back injury to score 38 against Wizards

March 28, 2024 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Cam Thomas shoots the ball.
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Nets interim coach Kevin Ollie suggested some extra pillows to support Cam Thomas’ sore back after his team won in Toronto Monday night without its leading scorer.

Brooklyn’s ever-emerging shooting guard returned from his one-game absence Wednesday in our nation’s capital and carried Ollie’s playoff-hopeful unit to a 122-119 overtime victory over the Washington Wizards in front of 15,159 fans at the Capital One Arena.

After the Nets (28-45) snapped a season-high six-game slide with a grind-it-out 96-88 triumph north of the border despite missing Thomas due to what Ollie described as spasms, the former first-round pick looked none the worse for wear against the Wizards (14-59).

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“We’ll have to get him a few extra pillows in his hotel room,” jabbed Ollie following Monday’s win.

Thomas looked more than capable of carrying the Nets on his back in D.C.

He poured in 38 points on 14-of-27 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers, and knocked down all eight of his free throws.

Thomas also dished out seven assists before drilling a pair of key jumpers during the extra session.

“I’m playing him at the point some, I love him at the point, and he gets everybody involved,” Ollie gushed after his previously struggling unit completed back-to-back wins for the first time since sweeping Atlanta in a two-game set at Barclays Center from Feb. 29-March 2.

“He’s doing a great job, to just give us another added dimension out there, if I can get him some minutes at the point.”

Thomas played a season-high 45 minutes, none more important than the final five.

After Nic Claxton snapped a 112-112 deadlock with a dunk to open OT, Thomas sank a 20-footer and a pull-up jumper to stretch the advantage to 118-112.

Dennis Schroder’s 21 points and eight assists helped the Nets to their first two-game winning streak since Feb. 29-March 2. AP Photo by Stephanie Scarbrough

Kyle Kuzma’s eight-footer pulled Washington within 120-118 with 1:14 to play, but Dennis Schroder’s free throws with 9.0 ticks left iced Brooklyn’s 3-1 season-series win over the Wizards and kept its faint play-in hopes alive.

“We took a good shot every time we went down in overtime, make or miss,” Thomas said. “So we’ll just live with that, and at the end of the day, we just got stops.”

The Nets couldn’t stop the 10th-place Hawks (33-39) from posting a 120-106 win over visiting Portland Wednesday, leaving Brooklyn 5 1/2 lengths behind Atlanta for the last available postseason spot with only nine games remaining.

Having split their four-game road trip after completing a stretch of 10 out of 11 games away from Downtown Brooklyn, the Nets will be back on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Friday night to open a two-game homestand against Chicago.

Jordan Poole matched Thomas with 38 points and Kuzma added 24 for Washington, which had a season-high three-game winning streak snapped after learning that owner Ted Leonsis announced a new agreement that would keep both the Wizards and NHL Capitals from moving to Virginia.

“It’s a great day, and I’m really relieved,” Leonsis said. “This was not only the right thing for the community, the right thing for the city, the right thing for us, it’s a really smart business deal.”

Schroder finished with 21 points and handed out eight assists, Mikal Bridges scored 19 and Claxton amassed 17 points, 13 boards and three blocked shots for the Nets, who will be bidding for their first three-game winning streak since Dec. 2-8 when they host the Bulls (35-38).

As for Thomas, he can fluff up some extra pillows and get ready to hear the cheers in his own building, where conference tournament season and March Madness took over for all but one game since Brooklyn completed a 3-1 homestand with a 112-107 win over Philadelphia on March 5.

Instead of worrying about the condition of Thomas’ back, Ollie conceded that Brooklyn’s 22-year-old leading man is growing exponentially along with his game.

“That just shows growth in him. I believe he had six assists at half-time, so it just shows growth with CT and how he’s getting better,” Ollie noted.

Interim coach Kevin Ollie points the Nets back to Brooklyn after they played 10 of their previous 11 games on the road. AP Photo by Eric Gay

NOTHING BUT NET: Chicago will come to Brooklyn just as desperate for a win as the Nets, but in much better play-in position. The Bulls snapped a three-game losing streak with Wednesday’s 125-99 rout of visiting Indiana behind 27 points from DeMar DeRozan and 22 and 12 rebounds from Nikola Vucevic. Chicago is 1 1/2 games in front of Atlanta for ninth place in the East. “As a team, I thought we were very connected defensively,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan told the Associated Press. “I really thought the way they helped each other was very important … with (Indiana) being such a hard team to guard offensively, the number of points they score.” … After hosting Chicago, the Nets will welcome LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers to Barclays on Sunday evening.

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