Cam Thomas helps Nets hold off hard-charging Rockets

Cam Thomas scored 37 points as the Brooklyn Nets sped out to a big lead in the first half before surviving an extremely shaky fourth quarter and holding on for a 106-104 victory over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night in New York.

Thomas moved back into the starting lineup in place of Cameron Johnson (personal reasons). Thomas posted his eighth game of scoring at least 30 points this season and scored 22 in the first half when the Nets led by as many as 28.

Thomas finished 11-of-19 from the floor and made 12-of-15 free throws as the Nets shot 48.6 percent and withstood getting outscored 34-18 in the fourth quarter.

Dorian Finney-Smith and Mikal Bridges added 19 apiece as the Nets won for only the third time in their past 15 games and improved to 5-17 in their past 22 since Dec. 13.

Dillon Brooks, Jalen Green and rookie Cam Whitmore scored 19 apiece for the Rockets, who nearly matched their win total from last season’s 22-60 mark. Alperen Sengun added 15 and 11 boards while Green finished with 10 boards to help the Rockets to a 55-40 edge on the glass.

Fred VanVleet was held to 13 as the Rockets shot 39.4 percent from the floor but the guard also handed out eight assists.

Royce O’Neale’s 3-pointer put Brooklyn up 47-19 with 7:26 left in the second quarter and the Nets held a 60-40 lead by halftime.

Brooklyn let the lead slip to 15 twice but did enough to carry an 88-70 lead into the fourth. Thomas hit three free throws to make it 93-77 early in the fourth but Whitmore hit a triple with 5:16 left to bring the Rockets within 97-91.

Houston still had a chance to finish the comeback when Brooks backed down O’Neale for a 10-footer along the baseline to make it 102-97 with 2:14 left. After Thomas was called for traveling, Jae’Sean Tate missed a 3 with 97 seconds left. With 7.1 seconds left, Amen Thompson intercepted O’Neale’s inbounds pass and hit a 3-pointer to cut the Nets’ lead to 103-102.

Thomas made two free throws for a 105-102 lead with 5.1 seconds left. After Houston called its final timeout, VanVleet split two at the free-throw line with 3.9 seconds left. Sengun was fouled by Nic Claxton and split two at the line with 2.4 seconds left before Spencer Dinwiddie’s free throw secured the win.