The Nets were missing one of their stars Saturday night, but they watched another one shine in a starting role in a 106-104 win over the Rockets.
Cam Thomas scored 37 points, marking his eighth 30-plus point game this season.
At a time where Cam Johnson was needed, the forward did not play due to personal reasons in the middle of a losing stretch for the Nets that saw them lose 12 of 15 games before Saturday.
“Always [with] personal reasons, you just continue to keep those dudes in your mind. That’s the thing about life is, it’s beyond basketball,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said of Johnson before the game. “So, nothing that is going to be a detriment to him returning or anything of that nature. But he’ll miss today for personal reasons.”
Thomas started the game hot and continued it throughout, ending the night shooting 57.8 percent from the field and 50 percent from the 3-point line.
He also came through on the foul line again for the Nets, going 12-for-15.
Five of those came in the tight closing minutes of the game, a big 3-pointer added along the way to help the Nets escape another late-game blunder.
“We just got to stay aggressive and force (the officials) to make the call. But you know, me getting to the line 15 times, that’s really my game. Just get to the line,” Thomas said after the win. “You know, get in the penalty. It’s easier when we’re in a bonus with like, five, six minutes left in the quarter, then defense is playing a little less off. They don’t wanna get ticky-tack fouls up early at our disposal. So that’s really something in my game that I always have.”
After the game, Vaughn admitted the performance makes him think about keeping Thomas in the starting five.
In fact, he said the “thoughts have always been there.”
“It’s always been about trying to balance that group out. And I know Cam can score with the first group or the second group. That’s what he can do,” Vaughn said. “I loved his aggressiveness tonight. We needed it. He set the tone for us early. His ability to make shots is huge and I think overall, defensively, we’re learning how to play with each other and to be able to be in positions for each other, which is huge for this group.
“It definitely has always been on my mind, what’s best for the group, and it’ll continue to be on my mind for sure.”
Thomas also added three assists, three rebounds, and one steal.
Johnson’s absence Saturday was the first time he missed a game since a calf injury at the beginning of the season cost him seven games.
Dariq Whitehead will have season-ending surgery Monday to address a left shin stress fracture.
He has appeared in just two games, averaging 1.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in an average of 12 minutes per game.