Marcus Thornton’s last month with the Sacramento Kings was not a pretty sight.
But in a brief sample size with the Nets, Thornton has seemingly regained the shooting stroke he once had.
Thornton turned his second 20-point game as a Net, pouring in 20 points as Brooklyn inched over the .500 mark for the first time this season with a wire-to-wire 103-94 victory over the Grizzlies Wednesday night.
“It’s a very unselfish group of players so it’s fun to play with those guys,” Thornton said. “We have multiple guys that can score, so that makes it better. I’m just going out there playing. I have unselfish teammates that’s just looking for you every time down the court. It makes it that much easier to go out and play.”
The Nets won their fourth straight and improved to 30-29, doing so by getting off to another good start, withstanding a run and pulling away late. The only difference from Monday’s win over Chicago was that the run came in the second quarter and the Nets pulled away in the third.
Thornton shot 8-of-13 and scored 15 of his points during a key stretch of the second quarter after Memphis seemed poised to cut further into a double-digit lead. Thornton scored 15 straight Brooklyn points to help the Nets go from being up 35-26 to 50-41.
“He’s been huge,” Joe Johnson said. “He’s a guy who can score buckets in a short amount of time. We need that sparkplug off the bench and he’s been that since Day 1.”
“I think that’s what we were counting on him doing,” Deron Williams added. “We knew what type of offensive player he was, what type of weapon he is and now he is enjoying this opportunity being on this team and playing with us and we’re glad we have him.”
He began his run with an 18-footer following a Tony Allen turnover and following a pass in the low post from big man Jason Collins. Then he knocked down consecutive 3-pointers with the second one coming after Marc Gasol’s 19-footer cut the lead to 40-35.
Thornton reached 10 points by intercepting a pass from Jon Leuer and easily running in for the layup for a 45-35 edge. He capped the run with a 3-pointer off a nice feed from Shaun Livingston.
Thornton turned in his fifth 20-point game of the year including on Jan. 24 when he tied a career-high with 42 points against Indiana.
Since that night, Thornton went 32-for-91 from the floor in his final month as a King. With the Nets seeking to get younger with their depth, he was made available for the price of Reggie Evans and Jason Terry.
“He’s such an important piece for us,” Paul Pierce said. “To acquire such a piece like him, a guy like him who gives us energy off the bench, who gives us scoring punch, that’s huge.”
“He’s been big for us coming off the bench,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s been getting great looks. He’s knocking them down, so he’s doing everything we’ve asked.”
Thornton’s second 20-point game in four games as a Net helped them take a 54-44 lead into halftime. After scoring 50 points in the first half for the fourth straight game, the Nets expanded on it with a 33-16 third quarter, using runs of 9-0 and 10-0 to pull away into an 87-60 advantage.
But that didn’t ice the win because Memphis was within 96-87 but Williams had a layup and Johnson knocked down a corner 3-pointer for a 101-87 lead.
Thornton also became the sixth different Nets player this season to score 20-plus points off the bench, which is the most among teams currently in playoff contention.
Besides Thornton, Johnson added 11 of his 21 points in the third quarter. Williams added 16 points and seven assists while Pierce had 14 points and eight assists.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.