Bruce Brown makes most of opportunity to start, helps Nets beat Jazz

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Bruce Brown knew he was going to get his moment.

Brown started the majority of his games in his two seasons as a guard for the Detroit Pistons, but on a loaded Brooklyn Nets team, he found himself at the end of the rotation. He had appeared in just three games, totaling 14 minutes of garbage time entering Tuesday’s matchup against the Utah Jazz.

But Spencer Dinwiddie’s untimely ACL injury created an opening in the starting lineup, and Kevin Durant’s required quarantine compounded matters. In the blink of an eye, the Nets were short two of their best playmakers.

Brown’s number was finally called, and he did not disappoint.

In his first start of the season, the former Piston made all the difference, bringing energy and intensity on both ends of the floor. Brown finished with six points, six rebounds and five assists on the night, guiding the Nets to a 130-96 win over the stacked Jazz.

Brooklyn outscored Utah by 20 in the 23 minutes Brown played. He tied Jarrett Allen for the team’s second-best plus-minus on the night behind Kyrie Irving (plus-22) who was lights-out from the floor.

Brown had been spending practice time with Brooklyn’s extra-work group — also known as the “stay-ready group”: a collection of players at the end of the rotation, including Chris Chiozza, Tyler Johnson, Rodions Kurucs and rookie big man Reggie Perry, who were not expected to see regular playing time over the course of this season.

“Yeah, it was definitely difficult because I started most of my career, but it was an adjustment. I was ready for it,” Brown said. “The stay ready group kept me ready. We worked hard. Those guys, we played ones, 5-on-5; we knew our time was gonna come. I just wanted to go out there with energy and play well.”

Brown played more than well. He was key. He defended Donovan Mitchell the majority of his minutes on the floor, picking him up the full 94-foot length of the floor.

The Nets lost a bit of their defensive edge when Dinwiddie went down, but Brown gave Brooklyn a jolt on Tuesday.

“That’s what I’m here for. So, I’ll leave the scoring to Kyrie and everybody else who scores the ball. I’m here to play defense and make the hustle plays,” he said. “I’m kind of pissed I didn’t have a steal today. I need to get more steals to help us out on the defensive end.”

Brown’s impact wasn’t only on defense. He helped fill Dinwiddie’s shoes offensively, as well, orchestrating the offense and alleviating some of the ball-handling duties Irving had assumed when his back court mate went down in late December.

“I thought he was engaged and played hard and did a little bit of everything. That more than anything brings value,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “Without Kevin out there, it’s nice to have more guys that can handle the ball, and I just thought he was tough and competed and knew the game plan and all those little things that count in winning basketball.”

Nash had previously been hesitant to play Brown. He said the former Pistons starter was more of a development player who needed to improve his three-point shooting and his play-making before earning legitimate minutes in the rotation.

But on a roster this fluid, Nash also conceded Brown was due for his opportunity, and he took full advantage of it on Tuesday. He proved he should be the starter at the two for some time, because everyone knows what he’s going to bring on a nightly basis.

“Just energy, man. I think we were playing a little slow out there, and now Kevin’s not here, so that’s another scorer down,” Brown said. “So just bring energy, push the ball, have some pace and just do a little bit of everything.”

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