INDIANAPOLIS — The Brooklyn Nets knew the rest of the NBA world didn’t think they could win Saturday night — but they didn’t care.
play without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons and a host of other rotation players the organization decided to rest the second night in a row, they still found a way to win, earning an impressive 136-133 win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.
“We came here to get the win,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said after the game.
Vaughn, like many of the Nets traveling squad, was absolutely beaming late Saturday night as the Nets stunned a Pacers team that had already beaten them twice this season. Specifically, Vaughn credited veterans Markieff Morris and Patty Mills to be able to keep the young squad focused despite the absence of so many players.
“For [the Pacers] it was a trick game,” Morris said. “Because we didn’t have nine players and they kind of played at competitive level if that’s what they want to call it. We just played hard…my message to the guys was ‘Enjoy the moment. … Take advantage of it because you don’t get that time when you take out seven or eight players. You can actually go out there and play carefree and play long minutes. ‘”
Several Nets players took that message to heart, especially the sophomore guard cam thomas, who had a career-high 33 points. The Nets also had an impressive 29 offensive rebounds — the most in the NBA by any team in a game this season.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of science to it,” Mills said. “It was just about having fun and having fun, and it was a very enjoyable game to be part of. Teamwork, team effort, everyone was engaged. Everyone was feeding energy from the other.”
Ahead of the win, Vaughn said he felt comfortable with the decision to seat so many players and that the organization “just got smart with the approach” as minutes and games piled up at the start of the season.
“It made sense with back-to-back games and with our schedule going forward,” Vaughn said before the game. “…When we took an overall look, when you have two or three guys in rotation, it puts pressure or stress on two or three more guys. So we’re really not able to take care of the team as a whole.”
When asked what he would say to a fan who had paid to see Durant play, Vaughn offered a thoughtful response — and an apology.
“It’s a legitimate question,” Vaughn said. “It’s a conversation I had with Kevin. I hope this fan knows that Kevin really wanted to play. He understands that. He wants to win every game. But it’s a decision only for us as organization, you just had to do…
“I would say to that fan that I’m watching over the future of Kevin Durant. I’m watching over the future of the organization. And I really apologize if that’s the game you chose. But he gave it his all. what he has had in every game since the start of this season.”
Vaughn said he made the decision not to have Durant travel so the 34-year-old could take full advantage of the time off before Monday’s game in Washington against the Wizards. Durant is averaging 36.8 minutes per game. Pacers coach Rick Carlisle was asked if he thinks the league should step in and limit the number of players who can rest in a certain game.
“There are rules in place,” Carlisle said. “I don’t know the exact rules. I believe once a year you are allowed to rest your players on the road if they are not injured. But look, what happens tonight is part of planning. That’s a very extreme example of something that’s going on tonight. In coaching, and you’re managing a team as an executive, the minutes are piling up. Aches and pains at this time of year, you think about the big picture.
“One day [off] at the right time can really help a player over the next two weeks. With Brooklyn, you talk about KD and Irving, [who] are two of the most talented players in the world.”
nets swingman Yuta Watanabe played Saturday after missing the past two weeks with right hamstring strain and had 10 points in 21 minutes.
Vaughn doesn’t believe the Nets will get a call from the league office for the decision to seat so many players in rotation.
“I think everything reported today has been documented,” Vaughn said. “And so we know that Seth [Curry] and Jo [Harris] had ankle out of season [surgeries], there is no argument for that. Nic didn’t play the last game because he had hamstring strain, there’s no argument for that. Kevin leads the league in minutes, there’s no arguing about that. Royce had a personal reason, he misses the next game, there is no argument for that.
“So it’s just a highlight that adds up at the same time. But [we] we feel totally comfortable as an organization that we put the best product on the floor as many times as possible and we will continue to do so. It happened tonight, it’s more than one, two or three people.”