Harden-led Nets fall to Rockets as Durant sits

James Harden talks with teammates during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets lost to the red-hot Houston Rockets by a 114-104 margin on Wednesday night, giving Brooklyn an unexpected loss to James Harden’s former team in a game that saw Kevin Durant sidelined for rest. 

While Harden recorded an impressive stat line of 25 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assist, he shot a lousy 4-16 from the field, while turning the ball over eight times — causing the shooting guard to place the blame squarely on himself. 

“It’s just a couple mishaps by myself, and a couple missed shots that just didn’t go in… and I feel like I could be better,” he said. “I got the shots that I wanted. I just didn’t make them.” 

Harden’s teammates displayed a similarly lackluster performance as well, as the rest of the starting lineup recorded just 29 points combined. 

The crucial moment of the contest game with just over six minutes left in the fourth quarter, when Harden missed a step-back three pointer that would have put the Nets within one point at a 97-98 score. 

Houston secured the defensive rebound and never looked back, opening the lead up to double digits, where it remained for the rest of the game. 

Now, the squad from Barclays Center falls to a 17-8 record, which keeps them in first place in the Eastern Conference by a half game, as the second-seeded Chicago Bulls also lost on Wednesday night to the Cleveland Cavaliers.  

Meanwhile, their victory over Brooklyn marked the seventh straight win for the Rockets.

The outcome was undoubtedly a disappointment for Harden, as the game represented the first time the future Hall of Famer played before a max-capacity crowd in his old stadium since successfully demanding a trade in January. (He had played in Houston while wearing a Nets uniform last season, but crowds were limited due to COVID-19). 

Houston fans in attendance at the Toyota Center mostly cheered Harden during pre-game introductions, where the Rockets played a video tribute to his time spent on their roster, though there was audible booing from some Rockets fans before tip-off, and noticeably more joined in as the game heated up. 

“I spent some of the most amazing years here,” said Harden. “So it’s very special when I’m here in Houston.”

On the court, the Nets clearly missed Durant, along with Lamarcus Aldrige, who both sat out to rest after last night’s win against the Dallas Mavericks — where Durant played 41 minutes, and scored 24 points. 

Presenting a positive attitude during a post-game press conference, head coach Steve Nash said that, while Durant and Aldrige’s absences hurt the team’s performance, it allowed them to mix-and-match lineups and get more players involved. 

“We put out lineups that have never played together,” Nash said. “So although we lost the game, maybe this pays it forward a little bit… not only with the rest for two of our starters, but also some of these guys getting minutes,” the coach said. 

The Nets will continue their road trip on Friday, when they head to Atlanta to play the 13-12 Hawks, led by All-Star point guard Trae Young.