The Nets went super-small on Saturday. It led them to a big win over the Golden State Warriors, and Bruce Brown was spectacular.
Brown effectively played as the five on offense. His switchability allowed the Nets to operate in a different dimension defensively.
Scoring 18 points with seven boards, Brown took advantage of the space created by Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. As a role man, as a cutter from the corner, Brown has proven a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He’s not going to be a behemoth on the glass like DeAndre Jordan, but seven rebounds is a decent return. Taking it off the offensive glass on four occasions is a real bonus.
This line-up is not going to work against Joel Embiid or Giannis Antetokounmpo. That’s a different question altogether. For now, though, Brooklyn have hit a formula which works on both ends, and particularly against smaller opponents like the Warriors. Brown is the difference maker.
He hadn’t been more than a spot starter until Saturday. Jeff Green was getting the small-ball five minutes, and Brown was filling in as a starter when one of the stars sat out. Despite standing at just 6’4, he filled the frontcourt role to perfection. He was attacking the basket in transition, setting screens and fighting on the glass.
Brown won’t always put up big numbers on offense. He will get beaten up on the boards against bigger opponents. The defense, however, is for real. Putting Brown in the line-up over Jordan or Green allows Brooklyn to switch as much as they like. Brown is tenacious on that end. He’s strong enough to guard bigger players, and he’s got enough lateral quickness to stick with even the nimblest of guards.
This was only a February win over a middle of the pack Western Conference team. Brooklyn did not have to deal with James Wiseman‘s length and athleticism. It was a game they were expected to win.
The significance of beating Golden State is minute in isolation. In the grand scheme, it could prove to be a pivotal point in the Nets’ season. There will be a lot more of the three stars, Joe Harris and Bruce Brown line-ups. And rightly so – this could be the Nets’ winning formula.
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