Durant, Harden lead Nets’ 17-point comeback in win over Mavericks

Kevin Durant Nets Mavericks
Dec 7, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) shoots over Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell (7) and forward Reggie Bullock (25) during the second half at the American Airlines Center.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets edged out a 102-99 victory against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, as the team from Barclays Center capped off a 17-point comeback led by Kevin Durant and James Harden’s 47 combined points.

“It was a ‘character’ win — where you just want to make the right plays to get back into the game, and you want to turn the momentum to your side,” Durant said after the game.

Last night’s win puts the Nets atop the Eastern Conference standings, where their 17-7 record edges out the second-place Chicago Bulls by a half-game.

Going into halftime with a 12-point deficit, the Nets’ sluggish first-half play continued into the third quarter, where the Luka Dončić-led Mavericks kept up the double-digit lead heading into the fourth.

But that wasn’t enough of a cushion for Dallas, as the Nets turned on their offensive firepower and tied the game with 6:41 left to play.

The Mavs never became overly disheartened with their blown lead and went score-for-score on their home court until the final play, when Dončić missed a 26-foot stepback jumper, only to see Mavs big man Kristaps Porzingis bring down the offensive rebound and dish the rock to Tim Hardaway Jr., who missed a game-tying three pointer to end the game.

“We’ve been in this league long enough to know it’s winning time,” said Harden. “We just kept sticking with it.”

Harden nearly recorded a triple-double during Tuesday’s contest — with 23 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds. Meanwhile, Durant finished with 24 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.

Three other Nets players — LaMarcus Aldridge, James Johnson, and Patty Mills — also recorded double-digit points, giving the Nets a well-rounded team win.

The come-from-behind win helped the Nets avoid back-to-back losses after the team fell to the Bulls at home on Saturday by four points.

While Nets fans are undoubtedly pleased with the team’s gritty performance, some expressed concern over the heavy workload out on the team’s All-Stars. Durant and Harden finished the game with 41 and 42 minutes played, respectively, raising potential injury concerns.

“I know people may be concerned about my minutes, and I got injured before, and all this extra s***, but we’ll figure that out if I get there,” Durant said. “Right now I want to play basketball.”

Nets coach Steve Nash conceded that injures were a concern for the team, especially given Durant’s somewhat injury-prone history (including when he was sidelined for the entire 2019-20 season with an Achilles injury).

“I think there’s enough distance from the injury that we feel more confident,” Nash said. “At the same time, we don’t love it.”

“There is always the risk of sometimes overburdening him, and [Harden] as well. We have to be
careful,” he added.

While Nash committed to limiting players’ minutes in the future, Harden may not want to rest on Wednesday night — as the team heads to Houston to play his former Rockets team, for the first time with a full crowd in the arena.

“I was there eight years. My whole entire family is there. I’ve got a lot of things going on there. But just for me, obviously a lot of emotions,” Harden said. “But for me, I’m trying to get a win. This is about racking up as many wins as we can.”

The Nets will tip-off against the 7-16 Rockets at 8 pm on Wednesday night.