Harden Dazzles as Nets Outlast Pacers for Lead in East

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Final: 03/17/2021

W 124 – 115

Photo via YES Network

There’s a new No. 1 in town.

In a game Brooklyn trailed by as many as 16, the Nets fought back to record a 124-115 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday. The win is the Nets’ sixth straight overall and franchise-best eighth straight on the road — and Brooklyn moves into first in the East with the Sixers falling to the Bucks. 

The story of the night was James Harden’s monster triple-double, which he clinched with a last-second rebound. The Nets needed a big night from Harden with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant out, and his 40 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds did the trick.

Brooklyn showed fight after trailing for the majority of the night. Brooklyn’s defense left much to be desired early as the Pacers outscored them 40-25 in a lackluster first quarter powered by Domantas Sabonis’ 14 points. 

Brooklyn picked up the energy and pace in the second and third quarters before finally breaking the door down in the fourth. An explosive 19-5 run gave the Nets as large as a 10-point lead as they held Indiana to 24 fourth-quarter points. 

Harden of course was Brooklyn’s offensive heartbeat, scoring 14 of his points in the fourth quarter, but the hustle shown by Nic Claxton down the stretch was a big part of the Nets’ comeback. Claxton got extended minutes in the fourth quarter, where he proved dangerous on both ends of the court.

It was unclear what to expect on the offensive end with Irving and Durant out, but Harden helped get his teammates involved to the tune of seven Nets in double figures. Brooklyn shot 48.3% from the field and 9-of-27 from three while adding a season-high 31 points at the free-throw line.

After their slow start, the Nets were able to flip the script while building momentum off their defense. Rarely a stat they win in a game, Brooklyn scored 22 points off 16 Indiana turnovers while turning the ball over 16 times themselves.

Brooklyn showed grit with a season-high 15 offensive boards as they tallied 62 points in the paint to Indiana’s 64. The bench came up big on that end thanks to Jeff Green and Claxton. 

The Pacers were powered by five players in double figures, including a 19-point night from Caris LeVert. It was great to see him on the court again and catching up with his former teammates.

Despite being shorthanded and getting off to a slow start, Brooklyn built a slow burn of a comeback before breaking through in the fourth quarter. Poor defense and careless turnovers kept them from taking the lead sooner, but the Nets’ chemistry and grit was on display in the fourth quarter — along with a fight to win led by Harden.

Next up: The Orlando Magic on Friday. 

James Harden

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The stats: 40 PTS, 13-27 FG, 2-9 3PT, 12-14 FT, 10 REB, 15 AST, 2 STL, 2 TO, 42 MIN

What more is there to say? 

Harden knew it was all on him for the Nets to win this game after going down by 16 without Kyrie or KD. Though he still was struggling from the three-point line, his orchestration and fourth-quarter execution were unmatched.

The Nets struggled during Harden’s minimal rest time, but he got better as the night went on for just the second-ever 40-point triple-double in Nets history (Vince Carter had the other). His chemistry with players like Joe Harris and Claxton has never been better, and his fight on Wednesday allowed the team to will themselves in a game they could have easily let the Pacers take over. 

Put simply, Harden never fails to impress. 

Joe Harris

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The stats: 19 PTS, 7-11 FG, 5-7 3PT, 4 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 3 TO, 37 MIN

This is the impact player we all know Joe Harris can be.

Joe has taken a backseat in the offense as of late, but he was able to show up big time with Kyrie out of the lineup. He was near-automatic from three while also making his way to the hoop.

Harden always has a great tab on where Joe is on the court and found him for some great wide-open looks on Wednesday. It is amazing how defenses are still leaving Joe alone, but Nets fans are not complaining. 

Tyler Johnson

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The stats: 15 PTS, 4-9 FG, 2-6 3PT, 5-6 FT, 4 REB, 2 STL, 2 TO, 31 MIN

Tyler Johnson was a sneaky X-factor off the bench.

He had more opportunities without Kyrie playing, and he made a difference on both ends of the floor. Johnson made some timely three-pointers while also forcing two steals.

The Nets needed an extra scorer with Landry Shamet underwhelming in the starting lineup, and Johnson was that player. He remained aggressive and got to the free throw line to make the most of his extra minutes and help turn Brooklyn’s momentum. 

Jeff Green

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The stats: 15 PTS, 4-8 FG, 7-10 FT, 9 REB, 3 AST, 1 TO, 30 MIN

Jeff Green continues to turn back the clock — and be a vacuum on the boards.

Jeff made a BIG difference for Brooklyn off the bench, most notably helping to grab five (!) of the Nets’ 15 offensive boards. The team had just three total on Monday against the Knicks.

Jeff was another player that showed hustle and played a part in Brooklyn’s momentum switch. He and Bruce Brown both showed good fight on the defensive end while also getting to the line. 

Nicolas Claxton

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The stats: 11 PTS, 5-10 FG, 1-2 FT, 8 REB, 1 AST, 2 BLK, 23 MIN

Nets fans finally got what they have been asking for: more minutes for Nic Claxton.

Claxton provided great energy for Brooklyn and was fearless in the paint. His defense helped turn into offense for the Nets, and Nash rewarded him by allowing Claxton to close the game for the first time.

Claxton is fun to watch and makes an immediate impact when he is on the court. Not to mention, he finished as a plus-24 in 23 minutes played — another impressive night as Claxton’s hustle was evident throughout the Nets’ comeback. 

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