LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to...

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket against Noah Clowney #21 of the Nets at Barclays Center on March 31, 2024. Credit: Getty Images

The most impressive thing about Noah Clowney’s seventh and final block Wednesday wasn’t the play itself. It’s what the Nets rookie didn’t do.

Clowney didn’t commit a foul when he swatted Garrett Temple’s potential game-tying layup off the backboard. It was excellent timing for a 19-year-old in his second NBA start, and first alongside center Nic Claxton

“It’s amazing how he does it,” interim coach Kevin Ollie said. “We’ve been seeing it all year. When he gets to the rim, he can be vertical and he can block the shot at the apex."

Added Clowney: “I didn't want to turn the ball over to begin with, but when I did, I know it was one of the moments like ‘nah, I can't let them have this one’.”

Two games after a career-high four blocks, Clowney became the 12th teenager in NBA history with at least seven in a game. In both instances, he didn’t commit a foul, something that often plagues rookie big men overly eager to defend.

It’s maybe the best thing he’s shown so far while playing power forward alongside Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe - the ability to be a rim protector, but doing so without being foul-prone.

“They kept trying to lay the ball up and I kept blocking it,” said Clowney. “There ain’t much else to it.”

Clowney’s shooting potential has been touted as a way he’ll stay on the floor in the modern NBA. But his ability to block without fouling — he’s averaging just 1.4 fouls in the last 11 games since joining the main rotation — is another path.

Playing Claxton and Clowney together gives the Nets two big men, something they’ve rarely played with. They combined for 12 blocks Wednesday and, at one point, Claxton and Clowney had blocks on consecutive possessions.

After the second, Claxton found Clowney cutting to the basket and set him up with a perfect pass for a layup, hinting at potential chemistry on offense.

“It’s not all about small ball anymore,” Claxton said. “You see a lot of teams that have two bigs on the court, they have more size on the court and that’s an area that we really lacked in, in the past. So maybe that can fix our problems.”

Clowney has also worked out well defensively playing with Sharpe. But for now, playing them together has more questions than the Clowney-Claxton lineup pairing.

Sharpe does the dirty work around the rim with putbacks, yet is less offensively polished than Claxton. As a result, there’s more pressure on Clowney to carry his weight on offense.

Yet that two-big lineup could also be an aberration after this season. Claxton is a free agent and, while the Nets want him back, there’s also the chance he could leave.

Neither Clowney or Sharpe have shown enough yet to be trusted as starting centers. So this glance at Clowney in extended minutes is partly banking on Claxton’s return to anchor the middle.

Yet with the season ending Sunday, Clowney is showing he’s capable of more defensive responsibilities on his own, or alongside Claxton.

“If we can figure out how to be real efficient offensively — because we know we can defensively — then I think we can be real dangerous together,” Clowney said.

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