2022 Summer League: Nets Defeat Sixers Behind Thomas, Duke Jr.
The young guns of the Brooklyn Nets continued their Summer League journey in scorching Las Vegas on Sunday. After a close defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, the Nets turned their attention to the Philadelphia 76ers. With both teams entering the contest at 0-1, they each needed a crucial victory if to keep any championship game hopes alive. Brooklyn came through with a 91-84 victory, led once again by guards Cam Thomas and David Duke Jr.
Before diving into the game, we caught Sean Marks and tried to see if there were any updates on the potential blockbuster Kevin Durant trade.
We tried, but despite the reports from Adrian Wojnarowski, Shams Charania and others, the Nets are still tight lipped as usual.
It was good, though, to see Ben Simmons and new Net Royce O’Neale chat with coaches Steve Nash and Jacque Vaughn. Now back to the game.
The start of the game for Brooklyn was slow and filled with turnovers, leading to an early 9-2 deficit. However, Brooklyn managed to calm itself down and started locking down on defense and forcing Philly turnovers. This, combined with solid ball movement on offense, sparked the Nets’ scoring run. Guard Alondes Williams and center Day’Ron Sharpe led the way with five and four points respectively. After the first quarter, Brooklyn led 22-21.
The second quarter was similar to the first. The Nets struggled with turnovers, and compounded the issue with poor rebounding. Nonetheless, Thomas and Duke Jr. began to put the team on their backs. DDJ slashed for two easy buckets, while Thomas struggled with his shot but managed to make trips to the free throw line to make a difference. By halftime, Thomas and Duke Jr. led the team in scoring with 13 and 10 points, respectively to power the Nets to a 44-42 lead.
Brooklyn was unable to blow the game open in the third quarter as turnovers helped Philly stay in the game. Thomas continued his bucket-getting alongside Williams to keep the Nets afloat. Though the team struggled with three-point shooting throughout the game, wings Kessler Edwards and Noah Kirkwood eacg hit one three-pointer each to help keep Philly at bay and help give the Nets a 67-66 lead after three.
The fourth quarter opened up with an absolute poster of a jam by Sharpe.
Brooklyn and Philadelphia traded baskets to begin the fourth. Then, something that could be a great sign for the Nets going forward happened. In back-to-back possessions, Edwards and Thomas hit dagger shots to put the 76ers away. First, it was Edwards with a in-stride three. That was followed by a Thomas, end-of-clock floater to seal the game.
In the words of Mark Jackson: good defense, better offense. The Nets emerged victorious, 91-84.
The continued impressive play from Brooklyn’s guards continued into the second game of Summer League. Reigning Summer League MVP Thomas continued his grand performance with another one with 26 points and seven assists. Though Thomas shot a poor 5-of-17, he was able to find his way to the free throw line and went 15-of-15 to help boost Brooklyn’s score. More importantly, Thomas was more active in his passing and his defense. As mentioned in our Summer League preview, the Nets need to see if Thomas can pass the ball and keep the offense moving; those seven assists shows he is heading in the right direction. Also, Thomas showed to be more active on the defensive end, highlighted by two steals that led to easy transition buckets.
Duke Jr. also continued his positive play on both ends of the floor. Though DDJ played sporadically, with a share of positive plays followed by negatives, there was much to like. Duke Jr. was able to easily slash and drive his way into the basket for easy layup opportunities. Just like Thomas, DDJ was also able to get to the line, shooting 9-of-10 on free throws. DDJ continued to show his defensive prowess, clamping his opponent and forcing two steals. For a player betting on himself to earn a guaranteed contract with Brooklyn, DDJ so far has impressed.
Williams, who is on a two-way contract, also had a solid game. In his 20 minutes, he added nine points, five assists and four rebounds. Williams showed his prowess as a slasher, getting easy buckets like his fellow guards. Additionally, his vision is as good as advertised. With the ball in his hands, Williams was able to find and thread passes that many players are not able to do. If Williams can continue his upward trajectory, Nets fans may seem him in the rotation sooner than later.
Kess and Sharpe
Sharpe had a monster performance. Outside his dunk, Sharpe collected a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double and flashed the potential of what he can be for Brooklyn. Sharpe looked solid as a roll-man and on post-ups while adding impressive defense at the rim, logging three blocks and two steals. If Sharpe continues his solid two-way play, he can very much be a key rotation piece for Brooklyn next season.
Edwards, fresh off the signing of a two-year deal, continued to struggle a bit from the field. For what seemed like a prolonged summer shooting slump, the lid seemed to lift from the rim in the second half. Edwards got himself going with a few easy dunks to the rim. Then, he was able to hit a couple threes, one being the dagger. Edwards finished 4-of-10 shooting, but finished 2-of-5 from three. For Edwards to be successful in Brooklyn and fulfill his potential, he will have to find a consistent three-point shot. Edwards’s defense is already proven to be solid enough.
Though they were minor supporting characters in the win, there are a few notes on Raiquan Gray, Taze Moore and Kirkwood. Gray continued to play like his G-League self. He was bruising in the paint on both ends, and played bigger than his size would entail. However, if he is going to be getting bigger opportunities, he needs to find his shot. Though Kirkwood’s shot was mentioned earlier, it should be noted that he proved he was a solid defender. With the bulky frame and lateral quickness, he was able to guard the perimeter soundly. Moore also had a few highlight plays, including an alley-oop layup and a wide-open three-pointer assisted by Thomas.
Lastly, Yves Pons provided key offensive rebounds to help extend key Brooklyn possessions.
Brooklyn continues its Summer League play on Tuesday, July 12. The Nets will play the 1-1 Memphis Grizzlies, led by rookies Kennedy Chandler, Jake LaRavia and second-year wing Zaire Williams. Tip-off will be at 6:30 ET in the Cox Pavilion.