Two out, two in, and the Brooklyn Nets kept on rolling.
With LaMarcus Aldridge making his Brooklyn debut and Landry Shamet returning after missing five games due to an ankle sprain, the Nets managed just fine without James Harden and Blake Griffin for a night as they routed the Charlotte Hornets, 111-89, for their 20th win in the last 23 games to improve to 34-15.
The Nets led by as many as 32 points in the game as they piled up the assists, spread the scoring, and picked up the hot shooting that closed out Wednesday’s comeback win over Houston with a lights-out 3-point performance. Six Nets scored in double figures as Brooklyn made 20-of-45 3-pointers with 34 assists on their 44 field goals.
“It was a great win,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “One of the best starts we’ve had maybe since before the break, so that was positive. That’s a very good team. We obviously shot the ball well, but we defended. We got into people. Communication was great. Rebounding. We took care of business. Proud of the guys. Tough game, back-to-back. Tough little stretch here and we had a good week.”
Kyrie Irving compiled a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, plus eight assists, while Jeff Green led Brooklyn with 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Shamet and Tyler Johnson each made 5-of-7 3-pointers, with Shamet finishing with 17 points and Johnson with 15. Bruce Brown added 14 points.
Getting the start at center in his first game with the Nets, Aldridge scored 11 points with nine rebounds and six assists.
“This is a guy that has a great pedigree,” said Nash. “Very intelligent, experienced and skilled 6-11 basketball player. We thought we had to get him going, so why not throw him in the starting lineup and see if he can get his rhythm and I was impressed with his effectiveness after such a long layoff.
Meanwhile, the Nets limited the Hornets to 34.9 percent shooting, 34.2 percent from 3-point range.
After leading by 29 points midway through the second quarter, Brooklyn took a 68-48 lead into halftime. The Nets shot 56.5 percent overall in the first half and 61.9 percent (13-of-21) from 3-point range. Brooklyn’s high-energy defensive start left Charlotte shooting 6-of-30 overall and 1-of-12 from 3-point range over the game’s first 12 minutes.
“We should have more games like that honestly where we’re the dominant team in the first quarter instead of playing from behind,” said Irving. “The flows of the game can change. Not every team is gonna come in and be held to a certain percentage in the first quarter like that by us, but we definitely made an imprint on that end tonight for sure. Soon as they came out the gate we were very aggressive on just staying physical with them and sticking to our principles in terms of the game plan we put forth. So we had a good game plan during shootaround. Just wanted to make it tough. Like I said earlier, they’ve been playing extremely well, so we wanted to jump on them first before they got to us.”
The Nets jumped out quickly with early threes — one from Joe Harris, two from Green — in taking a 13-4 lead. They closed the first quarter with a 15-2 run, with two Johnson threes in the mix, to take a 32-11 lead.
They stretched that to a 29-point advantage as Aldridge showed off his versatility, knocking down a 3-pointer, posting up for a basket in the lane, kicking out of the post for another Johnson 3-pointer, then hitting a turnaround jumper off a post-up for a 47-18 lead.
Up by 20 at halftime, the Nets opened up the third quarter with 16-4 run with two 3-pointers from Green and six points in the paint from Brown in taking an 84-52 lead with 5:45 to go in the quarter. Brooklyn carried a 92-65 advantage into the fourth quarter.
“Incredibly proud, especially for a regular season matchup against a team that’s positioned very well in the Eastern Conference and has been playing well as of late, so I think it was a great test just to be able to go out there and see where we were,” said Irving. “Few guys out, we got a welcome home type of performance from LaMarcus tonight in terms of starting for DJ, but I think we showed our depth tonight as well, just being able to fill in guys and guys playing extremely hard. We had that effort to match.”