Nets vs. Thunder: Bruce Brown and Second Unit Shape a New Look

The Brooklyn Nets visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night for the second game of a three-game road trip coming off Wednesday’s 132-128 overtime win in Atlanta. Brooklyn got a bench spark that had been missing the previous few games, and even early on against the Hawks, when the Nets got four points off the bench through the first three quarters.

That changed down the stretch with big contributions from Jeff Green and Bruce Brown, who finished with 12 points in 19 minutes for Brooklyn, making 5-of-7 shots.

“Bruce was huge,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “I thought everyone who played contributed at different times. Bruce made some great plays. He kind of played a center picking-and-rolling and not allowing them to muck off him as a shooter. We put him in the pick-and-roll and I thought he did a great job of getting down the lane finishing and keeping the floor spaced and enabling us to get the right matchup in the pick-and-roll. But his energy, his defense and rebounding was huge and Jeff (Green) obviously had a great night as well. The second unit held it down for a while and we could steal a few minutes for Kevin (Durant) and (Kyrie Irving).”

With Brown screening for James Harden, defender Trae Young consistently left him to double Harden, leaving Brown to float into open space in the lane free of coverage, scoring eight points in a three-minute span.

“Just smart basketball. Trae had it going, he was more aggressive offensively, obviously as he always is, but we wanted to get him in some action and make him guard a little bit,” said Harden. “Bruce did an unbelievable job of being a screener, finishing around the rim, making the right plays. I think for this team, each guy is gonna be a different night, and so whoever’s number is called, be able to step up and then contribute in whatever way the team needs it. So tonight was one of those keys and it’s gonna be like that throughout the course of the year.”

“I just try and get out in transition or cut just try to make myself open because I can knock down a 3 and be better for us, but right now I'm struggling,” said Brown on Tuesday about playing with Harden. “It will come, but yeah, I just try and get in the cracks and crutches, get offensive boards and just get to my floater that's falling right now.”

The group that included Brown and Harden, plus Green, Joe Harris, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, turned a seven-point deficit into a four-point lead over the first half of the fourth quarter. Green scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter and overtime as well.

“Bruce getting offensive boards, the putbacks he had him rolling down the lane, it made a huge impact, Bruce did, in this game,” said Green. “He turned the tables for us and he allowed us to get in a good rhythm.”


Part of the reason there wasn’t much bench scoring for the Nets on Wednesday night is because the second unit was getting its points through James Harden, who regularly plays with a group of reserves, particularly at the start of the second and fourth quarters.

In finishing with 31 points and 15 assists — his first 30-point game for Brooklyn since doing so in his first two games as a Net — Harden had 18 points at halftime on 10 shots. He had taken 10 shots total on Monday against Miami and nine the game before that. Against Miami on Monday, though, Harden’s fourth-quarter explosion lifted the Nets to the win after he took just five shots through the first three quarters, and in between games on Tuesday, second-unit guard Bruce Brown said the group would love to see Harden be more aggressive in looking for his shot

Nets coach Steve Nash echoed that after Wednesday’s win.

“I think encouraging is the word. I don’t want to force him,” said Nash. “He knows what he’s doing and he knows where his body’s at and where this process of assimilating to a new group is. We want him to aggressive, but we’re gonna give him his head and let him decide how he plays, but we definitely love it when he’s aggressive and there’s some tough matchups out there for him and he got going at an important time and we found a way to get it done, somehow.”


The Nets announced on Thursday that they have signed center Norvel Pelle, filling one of the three roster spots they have had open since the James Harden trade.

The 27-year-old made his NBA debut with Philadelphia last year, starting on a two-way deal and eventually signing a standard contract in February. With the Sixers, Pelle played 24 games and averaged 2.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 9.7 minutes per game. Pelle, 6-foot-10 and 231 pounds, also played eight games in the G League last season.

It was the fourth season of G League experience for Pelle, who averaged 11.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and shot 69.9 percent over 36 games for the Delaware Blue Coats in 2018-19, earning a spot on the NBA G League All-Defensive Team. Pelle also played for Delaware during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons after going pro out of high school, before going abroad to play in Italy, Lebanon, and Taiwan.

Since the Nets traded Jarrett Allen as part of the James Harden deal, they’ve been relying on two 6-foot-8 players — veteran forward Jeff Green and rookie Reggie Perry — to back up DeAndre Jordan.

“I still believe in Reggie a lot,” said Steve Nash. “You know, he's had a little bit up and down minutes. I think a big part of Reggie success is getting more comfortable playing more NBA basketball: You can't cheat that. He's a he's a smallball five that can shoot, he can dribble, pass, read the game, he understands basketball and has instincts for the game. So there's certain things you can't teach. Maybe it's because his father as a coach, he has those kind of instincts. So now it's about bringing those instincts out and getting comfort and familiarity with the NBA game so that his skills can we can make an impact in our team.”


Kevin Durant has hit the 15-game mark, and he did it with a 32-point outing on 50 percent shooting in 42 minutes in Wednesday’s overtime win against Atlanta. Nets coach Steve Nash has said it would take at least 15 games to get a read on how Durant was faring in his comeback from the Achilles’ injury that cost him the 2019-20 season.

Presently, Durant is second in the NBA in scoring, averaging 30.5 points on 51.7-percent shooting — 44.4 percent from 3-point range — with 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.

“Obviously he’s played great offensively,” said Nash after Wednesday’s win. “I think he’s still trying to get comfortable though. That’s how good he is. He’s just a walking bucket. He’s just out there on the floor, and he can fall into baskets just with his talent, skill, length, athleticism. He looks great, he’s moving great, he’s scoring the ball well. I think he still though has layers to go to feel more comfortable defensively, rebounding, rounding out his game, all the things that he’s been able to do outside of scoring, and that confidence. Just feeling comfortable playing basketball again after such a long layoff takes time.

“No matter how good he is, how many points he scores, how many 30-point games in a row he has, I think he’s still trying to feel it himself, and that takes time. You can’t just not play for 18 months, have a short camp, start playing, and feel it in the first 10, 15 games. It might take another 10, 15 games. He’s been remarkable with all those parameters and things I’ve just mentioned. But I still think he’s going to continue to feel more comfortable, more confident, and round out his game.”


Oklahoma City is 8-9, and beat the Nets in their previous matchup, 129-116 at Barclays Center on Jan. 10 behind 31 points and seven assists from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander while shooting 54.4 percent as a team. Gilgeous-Alexander leads the Thunder with 21.8 points and 6.5 assists per game while shooting 50.4 percent, but overall Oklahoma City is 29th in the NBA with a 104.5 offensive rating, ranking 22nd in field goal percentage (45.1) and 28th in 3-point percentage (33.5). The Thunder are in the middle of the pack in rebounds per game (44.2), but with a big differential — 29th in offensive rebounds (7.4) and third in defensive rebounds (36.9), though they’re 13th in defensive rebounds percentage (73.4).