Nets guard Cam Thomas takes a pass from center Day'Ron...

Nets guard Cam Thomas takes a pass from center Day'Ron Sharpe in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets at Barclays Center on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Few would’ve been shocked if Cam Thomas showed rust in his first Nets game since Nov. 8. He instead picked up where left off.
Thomas had no problem resuming his lethal scoring pace. But the Nets also resumed bad defensive habits Thursday that overshadowed his return.
Terry Rozier’s jumper with 39.5 seconds left gave the Hornets just enough room to escape with a 129-128 win at Barclays Center. Cam Johnson’s potential game-winning three-pointer bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
“As clean as I could have asked for,” said Johnson, who was wide open from the right corner.
Thomas had team-high 26 points in 25 minutes after missing the last nine games with a sprained ankle. He was one of six players that had at least 20 points but Rozier’s season-high 37 helped snap the Nets’ three-game winning streak.
Rozier, who added 13 assists, scored 10 of the Hornets’ final 12 points and his final bucket came despite Nic Claxton guarding him.
"Terry was just making tough shots,” Thomas said. “Mikal [Bridges] was guarding him well, he shot over him. Nic was guarding him well some possessions, he just shot over him and made tough shots. That’s what we do to teams, so sometimes you’ve just got to live with it.”
What the Nets couldn’t live with was poor defense. The 129 points matched the most they’ve given up in a non-overtime game this season. They allowed a season-worst 21 three-pointers to the Hornets (6-11), who shot 58.3%.
It reminded the Nets entered the game giving up the fifth-most three-pointers in the league in November. Both teams scored 100 points by the third quarter as coach Jacque Vaughn and Bridges criticized the Nets’ lack of physicality.
“For us to give up 70-plus points in the first half, some of those threes they made, they made 'em because they were comfortable,” Vaughn said. “When you give an NBA guy a little comfort, who hasn't made shots historically, then the confidence builds and you're able to see the ball go through the hole.”
The price included a spoiled return for Thomas. He entered with 6:05 in the first quarter to mild applause then drew louder cheers making his first two shots.
He scored eight points in the first quarter and nine in the second. But his scoring was overshadowed in the second by Rozier and Gordon Hayward.
The Nets led 41-31 early in the period before the Hornets made a 9-0 run. Hayward had 10 points in the quarter on 4-for-5 shooting while Rozier was 3-for-3 on three-pointers. When he wasn’t scoring, he found teammates with seven assists in the quarter.
The Hornets led 73-71 at halftime and had six offensive rebounds in the second quarter, three by Mark Williams. Williams had Vaughn upset at his team’s effort despite getting a season-high 22 offensive rebounds.
“It’s a concentration issue,” Vaughn said. At the end of the day, defensive rebounding has not been a problem for us. When you don’t concentrate, then it becomes a problem.”
Bridges had 22 points and nine rebounds for the Nets while Claxton added 20 points and 14 rebounds. Hayward had 22 points for the Hornets while Miles Bridges had 23.
In total, 11 combined players scored in double figures. Johnson scored 15 points but shot just 6-for-18 from the field.
Thomas shot 11-for-21 from the field despite being on a minutes restriction. But while his presence was a welcome sight, the Nets’ regression to poor defensive habits wasn’t.
“Just a bad defensive game for us. Gave them confidence,” Mikal Bridges said. “We just didn’t go out there and play hard and we just kinda relaxed and gave them confidence.”

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