To start his pregame press conference, Jacque Vaughn touched on the need to defend Jalen Brunson, the Knicks’ star guard who torched the Nets for 40 points when the teams met Feb. 13.
But any defensive adjustments ahead of time or during the game — which, Spencer Dinwiddie told The Post, included drop coverage and eventually blitzing — failed, as Brunson exploded for another 39 points, including 30 in the first half.
The Nets have been searching for a defensive identity since acquiring what, on paper, appeared to be a strong return for that area at the trade deadline, but in their 142-118 loss to the Knicks, they showed anything but that.
“To give up 142 points to your crosstown team, that hurts,” Vaughn said, “and it should hurt.”
Brunson reached his spots and connected on contested shots from different angles, Vaughn said, and that made him difficult to contain.
The Knicks scored 47 points in the first quarter, 81 by halftime and connected on 14 3-pointers in the first half. Dinwiddie told The Post that it’s difficult to respond when teams hit 3s at that clip.
Even as the Nets experiment with different defenses and try to find what works best, both Dinwiddie and Mikal Bridges referenced a need to figure out which one they’re going to focus on moving forward.
They’re running out of time with just 20 games left, too.
“Just still trying to figure out our defense and what we’re doing,” Bridges said, “so it’s tough, but we just weren’t getting stops out there.”
As Kevin Durant made his debut for the Suns on Wednesday, Vaughn was asked before the game if he’ll check the box score in the morning.
Durant finished with 23 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 27 minutes as the Suns defeated the Hornets.
“When I go home, I turn on League Pass and I see what’s going on,” Vaughn said.
“He’s a West Coast team, so I’ll probably watch and see if they’re still playing. I’ll turn it on just like I turn on any other game. … Pulling for him. Want him to do well.”
Ben Simmons will be out again Friday against the Celtics, Vaughn said postgame. He hasn’t played since the All-Star break
Yuta Watanabe (back soreness) was available for the Nets against the Knicks, one night after he was a late scratch against the Bucks and carried a questionable designation throughout the day. He didn’t log any minutes, though.
Ed Sumner missed his second consecutive game for personal reasons, which he had previously revealed were related to his wife giving birth. Vaughn said Tuesday that “we’ll see” when asked about Sumner’s availability for Friday against the Celtics.
Cameron Johnson’s 33 points was a season-high and five short of his career high, which he set last season.
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