The Nets' Royce O'Neale passes away from the Magic's Franz...

The Nets' Royce O'Neale passes away from the Magic's Franz Wagner during the second half of an NBA in-season tournament game on Tuesday at Barclays Center. Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

MIAMI — The Nets haven’t had much fast-break fun since Ben Simmons got hurt. But one sequence Tuesday showed what things can be as they wait for him to heal.

In the second quarter, Dorian Finney-Smith dove for the ball after Magic guard Cole Anthony lost it. He passed to Spencer Dinwiddie, who led it ahead to Royce O’Neale, who lobbed the ball to Lonnie Walker IV for a dunk.

It was something coach Jacque Vaughn wanted to see. The Nets took more gambles defensively against the Magic to force turnovers and get out in transition. Without Simmons for at least another week, that kind of play can help them reach the tempo they miss with him sidelined.

It’s no surprise that the team’s season-best 31 fast-break points against Magic came along with 13 steals, another season-high total. Nor is it a shock they’re 4-1 entering Thursday’s game against the Heat when they have at least 21 fast-break points.

“I thought we really were aggressive on the defensive end of the floor and you saw that with the turnovers,” Vaughn said. “So that combination for us: understanding the recipe behind turning people over, getting out in transition, executing the half court. We can do it. And that's the challenge for this group.”

It’s also the key for how this team can run without Simmons, who is out with a nerve impingement in his back. He usually gets the team running by rebounding the ball and looking up court to find shooters.

Dinwiddie, who’s taken over most of the ball-handling duties, along with Mikal Bridges, is more deliberate bringing up the ball. So if the Nets want speed, it’s going to come from turning defense into offense.

That means taking more risks for steals. It’s come with growing trust in, not just Vaughn’s new schemes, but the personnel on the floor.

“Guys are definitely in the passing lanes more, even when I'm guarding people defensively,” Nic Claxton said. “You know, going back two years prior, I'm not used to having so much help. I'm used to really being on an island.”

Having Claxton back from injury also helps. His rim protection gives defenders the option to cheat on pursuing steals, which can create more turnovers and shots in transition. Whether he’s blocking shots or altering them, it can lead to rebounds to start fast breaks

Claxton played 8:52 of the third quarter Tuesday, a period where the Nets had 13 fast-break points. It’s not a surprise the two are linked and, without Simmons, defense through Claxton can be a spark to get the Nets playing faster.

“When you know you got somebody like Clax protecting the rim, you can be more liable, be more aggressive and maybe get blown by because you know that somebody is at the rim,” Bridges said. “Somebody down there [that’s] not a rim threat, then it’s difficult because they get a couple of steps on you and they're just going to finish at the rim.”

The Nets entered Tuesday’s win last in turnovers created per game so they’re banking on that changing with Claxton providing insurance. There’s also hope it can be something to turn to even when Simmons is healthy.

Vaughn has said playing in transition is critical for the Nets’ identity since they’ll struggle in the half court. Tuesday showed another way they can speed teams up, and they’ll need it until  - and after -  Simmons gets back.

“The more opportunities that we can create and dictate possessions and be able to turn guys over, that's only going to be to our advantage,” Vaughn said. "I think our guys are trying to grasp onto this idea of taking risks and being in positions to help your teammate out.”

More Brooklyn Nets

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME