Kevin Durant’s wandering eyes now glued to Nets as Jacque Vaughn succeeds where Steve Nash failed

Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Nov 5, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Brooklyn Nets acting coach Jacque Vaughn high fives forward Kevin Durant (7) during the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant was wary of his homecoming trip to the nation’s capital Monday night after the Brooklyn Nets rested him and six of their core players at the beginning of this four-game road trip in Indiana over the weekend.

“We talked about this being a trap game. If we’d have played too relaxed, with no sense of urgency, we definitely would have lost this game.”

Kevin Durant postgame via

But Durant was re-energized by their Nets’ bench mob effort in pulling out a stunning 136-133 win against the Pacers last Saturday. And he made sure they sustained their winning effort with another brilliant all-around game.

Durant dropped 30 points and collected nine rebounds and six assists, leading the Nets to their fourth straight win and eighth in their last nine games.

Their 112-100 victory over the Bradley Beal-less Washington Wizards has catapulted the 17-12 Nets to fourth in the East, just half-game behind the current third seed, Cleveland Cavaliers (17-11).

Durant referenced Saturday’s stunner as somehow similar to this game, but only this time, the tables have been turned. The Wizards were shorthanded without Beal, Monte Morris and Rui Hachimura.

But a well-rested Brooklyn starting five led by Durant scored 84 of the Brooklyn Nets’ 112 points as they pulled away for good in the third quarter.

Kyrie Irving added 24 points, five rebounds and six assists. Joe Harris contributed 11 points while Ben Simmons had 10 points, eight boards and five dimes. Starting center Nic Claxton produced nine markers, seven rebounds and two blocks in just 26 minutes.

“I thought you saw our guys look extremely fresh. We had a lot of juice to start the game and plenty to finish.”

Jacque Vaughn postgame via

Durant credited Vaughn for making the necessary adjustments in Indiana in guiding their bench mob to the inspiring victory.

“That game was just incredible. Indiana made a lot of shots, but we weathered the storm. We stay poised. And that’s the type of team you want to be on.”

Kevin Durant postgame via

Durant emphasized after he rescinded his trade request in the offseason that he wants the Nets to establish an identity which will be respected throughout the league.

Where Steve Nash failed, Vaughn is succeeding.

The Nets have played hard under Vaughn, especially on the defensive end. Since Vaughn took over, their defensive rating has improved from 116.7 in their 2-9 start under Nash to 110.5 in their last 22 games. For context, the current top-7 defense belongs to Western Conference’s second-best team Memphis Grizzlies, with a 110 defensive rating.

“Jacque has made it very clear that if you’re not playing hard enough, he’s gonna let you know about it.”

Kyrie Irving postgame via

They are 15-7 since Vaughn replaced the ineffective Nash. And it appears Durant is content, and his wandering eyes are now glued to Brooklyn.

The Nets will wrap up their road trip in Toronto and Detroit before facing an acid test at home against Durant’s former team and reigning NBA champions Golden State Warriors next week.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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