All nine Brooklyn players in the rotation scored at least six points as the Nets began the post-Kevin Durant era with a balanced attack to snap a two-game skid with a 116-105 win over the skidding Chicago Bulls Thursday night at Barclays Center.
Durant was traded to the Phoenix Suns in a stunning end of the superstar era in Brooklyn in the early hours of Thursday.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s always difficult when you’re trading a player of that stature and that ilk,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said. “My job as GM and our job as a front office is to try and bring in that caliber of talent. So those decisions are not easy. They come with a lot of thought, a lot of process on systemic debriefs and discussions that go along with that.”
The Durant trade came two days after they sent Kyrie Irving to Dallas. The Nets desperately tried to persuade Durant to stay by pursuing Toronto’s Pascal Siakam as his next co-star. But the Raptors did not make him available.
Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges, the main headliners of the package the Nets received from the Durant trade, were not immediately available.
But Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith, the main pieces from the Irving package from Dallas, made an immediate impact.
Returning to Brooklyn, where he spent nearly six seasons from 2016-2021 and broke out from a fringe player to a high-level starter, Dinwiddie picked up from where he left off. The 29-year-old guard scored 25 points to pace the Nets.
Finney-Smith almost had a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds and was a game-high plus-32 on his Nets debut.
Holdovers Joe Harris and Yuta Watanabe came off the bench to add 18 and 14 points, respectively, with their contributions came in the crucial junctures of the game.
“I think everybody was trying to figure out each other and how we would play,” Harris said. “Once that started, and the rhythm got there, and everybody was able to kind of settle in, we started playing really well and played really well together.”
Harris waxed hot in the second quarter, firing his 18 points, all from downtown, as the Nets recovered from an early 13-point deficit and grabbed a 53-50 halftime lead.
The scrappy Watanabe teamed up with Dinwiddie and Cam Thomas during a Nets’ 20-6 run in the fourth quarter that turned an 88-86 deficit into a 106-94 lead with 3:12 remaining.
Thomas’ streak of three straight 40-point games ended, but he caught fire in the fourth quarter with 13 of his 20 points after going 0-6 in a scoreless first half.
“We only gave up 21 points in the fourth, and that was with ((Watanabe) on the floor finishing for us,” Vaughn said. “I think we saw the versatility and size come into play tonight where we didn’t get destroyed rebounding-wise and shot-discrepancy.”
The Nets’ strong finish saw them outscoring the Bulls, who stood pat at the trade deadline, by 16 points and held them to 33.3 percent shooting.
Even with starting center Nic Claxton unavailable due to a hamstring injury, Brooklyn outrebounded Chicago (49-46) and continued to share the ball with 26 assists. The Bulls only had 15 in an uninspiring effort after a solid start.
The win gave the fifth-seed Nets (33-22) a three-game lead over Miami Heat (30-35) and the New York Knicks (30-26).
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo