Brooklyn Nets: Three Takeaways from the Win Over the Charlotte Hornets (4/16/21)

After yet another slow start, the Brooklyn Nets pulled out a comfortable win over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night. With a number of memorable individual performances and collective dominant play from the bench, Brooklyn bounced back from a stinker of a loss to the 76ers on Wednesday in the best way possible.

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The Brooklyn Nets pull themselves twenty games above .500 as the team is edging towards full strength with James Harden’s return seemingly imminent. With the win, there are a number of storylines to take away for Brooklyn moving forward. As such here are three takeaways from Friday’s victory over Charlotte.

Kevin Durant is back to his best

In 100 minutes since returning from a 23 game absence, Kevin Durant has totaled 95 points, 25 assists, and 21 rebounds on 58.3 percent shooting from distance and 64.9 percent from the floor as a whole. The former MVP has quickly reasserted himself despite a gradual increase in minutes over the last four games.

Against Charlotte, Durant put up 25 points on just 12 shots while also dishing out 11 assists. He looks so fluid, it’s astonishing this is still his first season back from an Achilles tear. There’ve also been no real signs of weakness since recovering from his hamstring injury as he’s just as explosive as ever and his feel for the game is what it’s always been.

While the Brooklyn Nets opened Friday night poorly especially in contrast to Charlotte’s early hot shooting, Durant established himself as the gamer progressed as he scored in every way imaginable. Whether off of deep pull-ups, midrange jumpers, acrobatic finishes at the rim, or emphatic one-hand slams, he did it all while also involving his teammates and, more specifically, his shooters in the offense.

In James Harden’s absence and in a game where Kyrie Irving was unusually quiet offensively — scoring just 12 points on the night — Durant worked as the focal point of the Brooklyn offense and did so tremendously. As if it needed reiterating, once Harden returns and the big three grow more accustomed to playing with one another, it’s going to be scary hours for the rest of the league.

Joe Harris and Landry Shamet make this Brooklyn Nets offense unfair

Providing critical complementary scoring alongside Durant, both Joe Harris and Landry Shamet had massive nights on Friday. Harris led the team in points with 26 on 8-12 shooting from the floor and 6-9 from behind the arc. Off the bench, Shamet put up 20 of his own on another six triples and 7-14 shooting from the floor.

When both of those guys are hitting alongside the star power of Durant, Irving, or Harden, there’s not much hope of stopping the Brooklyn Nets’ offense. Both Harris and Shamet are such smart off-ball players who are capable of capturing the attention of multiple opponents with their constant cutting and movement. That, coupled with their elite shot-making essentially makes helping to any of the stars a death wish for a defense. Give them a high volume of opportunities, and good night.

The bench comes up big

While Shamet was great in his own right, the performance from the entire Nets’ bench may have won Brooklyn the game on Friday. Specifically, Bruce Brown, Blake Griffin, and Nic Claxton all provided meaningful contributions.

With 10 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block, Griffin filled up the stat sheet. He’s been perhaps Brooklyn’s most consistent frontcourt piece on both ends recently. Brown chipped in an additional nine points and added six assists as he kept the bench unit offense flowing without a true point guard on the floor. And, despite a limited offensive showing, Claxton was sound as always defensively and corralled nine boards in 23 minutes.

Together, this group plus Shamet put the Brooklyn Nets over the top against Charlotte. The four of them combined to go +85 in 86 minutes as they were the group to pull away from the Hornets without either Durant or Irving on the floor.

It’s incredibly encouraging to see such a showing from the Nets’ bench considering the team is still shorthanded without Harden but also with Lamarcus Aldridge’s recent retirement and Chris Chiozza’s season-ending injury. Hopefully, this group can continue to be a plus for Brooklyn as the approaches its final run in the regular season.