photo credit: Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
James Harden is used to carrying teams on his back. In reality, he did this for years with the Houston Rockets. Now without Kyrie Irving (personal/family leave) and Kevin Durant (hamstring), Harden knew his job as a leader and superstar but is also surrounded with real talent without two members of “The Big Three” out. It was determined right before the game that Harden was playing, as he’s dealt with pain in his neck. Playing the Portland Trail Blazers and seeing another MVP candidate in Damian Lillard, Harden understood the task at hand and showed what he would do and go through to win basketball games.
The first twenty-four minutes of play was entertaining, back and forth basketball. The Nets originally had a lead heading into halftime but had a basket taken away after it was determined that DeAndre Jordan was just barely beat by the shot clock. The score heading into the second half was 66-65 in favor of the Blazers.
As they always do, Brooklyn persevered and did what needed to be done. They outscored Portland 27-25 in the third quarter and ran away with the game in the fourth. Being outscored 13-6, Portland called timeout with 8:08 remaining. Still a close game, Brooklyn needed to tighten it up defensively and score on their possessions. With 3:09 to go, Steve Nash called a timeout; his Nets had a three-point lead (112-109). With 16.5 seconds to go, Brooklyn led 114-111, and harden was fouled. The play was challenged and eventually overturned. The Blazers won the ensuing jump ball. Robert Covington was fouled just before a shot. The Blazers were in bonus, so he got two four shots. He missed the first free throw and hit the second one. Nash called another timeout with 7.8 on the clock and the Nets carrying a two-point lead. With 5.8 off the inbound, Harden was fouled. Brooklyn called their final timeout. On their next inbound, Joe Harris tipped the ball back to Jeff Green, who was just barely in bounds. Luckily, a foul was called, and Green hit both shots, giving Brooklyn a four-point lead with 4.4 to go. Lillard missed a three-pointer, Harden got the rebound, and the Nets picked up the win. The Nets continued their road dominance and have won nine-straight games against Western Conference opponents.
For the first time in franchise history, the Nets have won two straight games in Portland, according to Ian Eagle of YES Networks.
Harden had 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 17 assists. Jordan had 3 points and 10 rebounds. Nicolas Claxton was fantastic and recorded 16 points and 9 rebounds. Green had 20 points, 4 rebounds, and an assist. Joe Harris had 17 points, a rebound, and an assist. Blake Griffin played a steady two-way game and picked up 8 points and 5 rebounds. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot had 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Tyler Johnson was solid and produced 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Bruce Brown posted 8 points, 4 rebounds, and an assist. Overall, the Nets were very good Tuesday night. Work can and will be done, and as the roster gets healthier, it only gets better. With the injury-depleted team they have now, they still hold the depth needed to win games. Some wins are prettier than others, but a win is a win at the end of the day.
The Nets will take on the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, with tip-off set for 10:00 PM Eastern Time.