Before Tuesday’s game, Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said his team had to find a happy medium for when they were with and without Ben Simmons.
With Simmons, they’re a great transition team. Without him, they’re not. But in the Nets’ 124-104 home win over the Magic, the Nets rediscovered the pace they’ve been missing.
In their first home in-season tournament game, the Nets (6-5. 2-1) had a season-high 31 fast break points at Barclays Center. For a team that ranked last in steals and turnovers forced, the Nets had forced 14 turnovers, including a season-high 13 steals, that lead to 27 points.
The game ended, fittingly, with Mikal Bridges getting a steal and layup to finish the Nets outscoring the Magic 36-18 in the fourth quarter.
“The more opportunities we can create and dictate possessions and be able to turn guys out, that’s only going to be to our advantage,” Vaughn said. I think our guys are trying to grasp on this idea of taking risks and being in positions to help a teammate out.”
It was a display that could’ve made Simmons proud. Before the game, the Nets announced he’ll miss at least one more week as an MRI for his hip contusion revealed a nerve impingement in his back.
In the last three games he was out, the Nets had no more than 14 fast break points each game. The Nets nearly matched that in the third quarter with 13 points in transition. It helped them rally from a seven-point deficit to lead 88-86 at the quarter’s end.
It carried over into the fourth as the Nets opened on a 15-3 run. Spencer Dinwiddie, at one point, scored nine consecutive Nets points as he pushed to lead to 106-92.
Like the Nets, Dinwiddie had his own rediscovery with a season-high 29 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. His minutes had decreased over the past few games as he was adjusting to a role more off the ball but Dinwiddie made his presence felt on the ball Tuesday in 37 minutes.
“I think it was just the flow of the game to be honest,” said Dinwiddie, who made five three-pointers and added eight assists. “As you can see, I don’t come into any game with any preconceived notion. I have a varied role and I’m here to support the team whatever way possible.”
Cam Johnson, who struggled in his first two games back from injury, had 20 points while shooting 7-for-11.
“I don’t really necessarily consider that one shot [is] falling,” Johnson said. “But I got a couple wide-open ones on good plays, good ball movement. Just the beneficiary of that. Should’ve had probably six of them.”
Royce O’Neale had 13 points, including 4-for-6 shooting on three-pointers. Even Bridges, who’s shooting a career-low 26.9% on threes, found his touch from deep. He went 3-for-5 on threes and finished with 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
The Nets bigs, however, battled foul trouble all game. Nic Claxton had four fouls in the first half but still finished with eight points and six rebounds. Day’Ron Sharpe fouled out but delivered a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, all in the first half.
The Magic (5-5, 0-1) lost their first in-season tournament game despite 21 points from Franz Wagner. The Nets still have a chance to reach the knockout round starting Dec. 4.
They have one more tournament game on Nov. 28 and then they’ll have to wait and see.
For now, they’ll settle for having found their speed again as Simmons cheered them on from the bench.