Nets’ Bruce Brown steps up in big way with James Harden out

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Bruce Brown has served as a super sub for the Nets all season, starting 37 games — often at different positions — while Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving missed long stretches or various games due to injuries and other reasons.

Brown made his most important start of the year Monday night in place of the injured-again Harden, however, and he did precisely what the Nets have grown to expect from him. He filled up the final score sheet with 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and zero turnovers — plus his customary stifling defense, this time on Khris Middleton — in the Nets’ 125-86 blowout win over the Bucks at Barclays Center.

“Bruce just comes in and plays extremely hard,” Durant said. “Me and Ky talked about it once we got Bruce, that playing against him the last two years, nobody really knew him in Detroit. But when you play against him and you got him in the scouting report, he kind of disrupted our flow when I was in Golden State a bit, one game. I was like who is this kid?

Bruce Brown defends against Giannis Antetokounmpo during tonight's Nets win.
Bruce Brown defends against Giannis Antetokounmpo during tonight’s Nets win.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“But we knew he played with extreme passion and intensity. He wasn’t playing for us early, but whenever he got a chance, we knew he was going to come in and make an impact.”

The 6-foot-4 Brown was acquired from the Pistons just before the start of the regular season. Nets coach Steve Nash said he started him with Irving in the backcourt for defensive reasons. It was the fourth time Nash employed this starting alignment, with both Brown and Blake Griffin alongside Durant, Irving and Joe Harris.

“They really came out and played well to start the game. A lot of energy, a lot of fight,” Nash said. “Blake’s been playing very well and doing all the little things and we know Bruce does that as well, so just their energy and fight was fantastic. It’s contagious and I thought the whole group really performed well out of the gates.”

Brown’s primary mark in Game 2 was Middleton, who missed his first eight shots and finished 7-for-20 with 17 points after missing 17 of 23 from the floor in Game 1.

“Really just make all his shots tough, be physical with him, make nothing easy and just press him,” Brown said. “I think when James gets back, we’re gonna hopefully try to do the same thing, just play hard, play physical, and when he comes back, he’ll fit right into the mold.

“We’re gonna be locked in. We know the series starts Game 3 [Wednesday] in Milwaukee. We’re ready. We’re not gonna let up at all.”

In the second quarter, the 24-year-old Brown nailed a 3-pointer to push the Nets’ lead to 21, and he also made a nifty feed to Griffin for an arena-rocking baseline slam, with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo ducking for cover.

“I had to get out of the way because I was going right as I dropped it off to him. So I had to duck my head and get out of the way,” Brown said. “I didn’t see anything until I turned around and saw Giannis under the rim.”

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