Harden Records Triple-Double in Brooklyn Debut as Nets Outlast Magic

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Final: 01/16/2021

W 122 – 115

The James Harden era has arrived in Brooklyn — and he messed around and got a triple-double.

In his first game as a Net, Harden dropped 32 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds as Brooklyn defeated 122-115 the Magic at home on Saturday for the team’s third straight victory. Kevin Durant was nearly unstoppable and poured in a season-high 42 points.

It was difficult to predict what the Nets would look like Saturday night. After all, Harden had not played with his new teammates until the first quarter.

But running plays or not, Harden made an immediate impact on Brooklyn’s offense, pushing the pace and creating offense for his teammates. It took him a while to get his first Nets bucket, but it was worth the wait.

The Nets as a whole were cold to start the game and steadily increased their accuracy as the night progressed. Brooklyn ended up shooting 53.8% on the night and 16-of-35 from three. The team also shot an efficient 22-of-25 from the free-throw line. 

Harden played 40 minutes in his debut as the game remained close throughout. The Nets’ lead grew to as many as 10 points in crutch time as Bruce Brown drained a game-clinching three-pointer in the corner.

The ball moved plenty with Harden controlling the pace, so much so that turnovers continued to be a problem. The Magic scored 19 points off 19 Nets turnovers — Harden had 9 of them — but Brooklyn largely took care of the ball by the time the fourth quarter came. 

A first look at Harden in a Brooklyn uniform brought plenty to build on — better spacing for players like Joe Harris to shoot, quick feeds inside and highlights alongside his reunited teammate in Durant. The team seemed to mesh quickly having played together for just the first time on Saturday, and once Kyrie Irving is cleared to play, there will be more options for Brooklyn to play around with and find the right balance. 

The Nets did allow the undermanned Magic to score 115 points and keep the game close, continuing the trend of showing room for improvement on defense. Orlando got 42 points off its bench, thanks to Terrence Ross, and was led by Nikola Vucevic’s 34 points.

The Nets missed Jarrett Allen’s rebounding and ability to finish inside, and Caris LeVert’s boost off the bench, but those holes will need to be figured out moving forward. For now, Harden’s impact on ball movement, pace and sheer production are a good sign of what is to come.

A great sign, even. Now, to complete the “Big Three.” 

James Harden

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The stats: 32 PTS, 8-18 FG, 3-10 3PT, 13-15 FT, 12 PTS, 14 AST, 4 STL, 1 BLK, 9 TO, 40 MIN

Talk about a debut

Harden showed off the goods in his first game as a Net, and the assists made the biggest impact. He found his teammates for looks consistently throughout the night, both on cuts and on the perimeter.

Harden was sloppy at times with nine turnovers, and struggled from distance, but that comes with trying to get more people involved. He was able to make up for some of the mistakes with his team-high four steals.

Harden showed that he does not always have to stick to dribbling and shooting — alongside Durant, Harris and Brooklyn’s top scorers, Harden can be more of a facilitator. It will be interesting to see how Harden’s role alters once Irving is back, but his first game was a glimpse into how fun the Nets’ future can be. 

Kevin Durant

A

The stats: 42 PTS, 16-26 FG, 5-8 3PT, 5-5 FT, 4 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL, 6 TO, 40 MIN

Kevin Durant has his first 40-point game as a Net.

Game after game, it is clear: Kevin Durant can flat-out score. His performance on Saturday was his ninth straight game with at least 25 points, and he makes it look effortless. 

Again, KD needs to work on taking care of the ball, but he went to work against Orlando. Give us all the Harden to Durant highlights, please.

Joe Harris

A

The stats: 17 PTS, 6-11 FG, 4-9 3PT, 1-1 FT, 5 REB, 30 MIN

Joe Harris is going to like having Harden on the court with him.

Not only can they run the court together, but the attention Harden attracts only gives Harris more space to get his shot off (not that he needs much). Harris drained two deep threes near the start of the game, showing how Brooklyn’s offense can click.

Harris tweaked his ankle a bit, but he got it wrapped and immediately hit a three-pointer upon returning. That’s the Joe we know. 

Jeff Green

B+

The stats: 10 PTS, 4-6 FG, 1-2 3PT, 1-2 FT, 4 REB, 1 TO, 30 MIN

Jeff Green was a sneaky scorer, running the floor and finding looks in the starting lineup. The Nets needed a boost from Green as the bench struggled to score, recording just 19 points.

The new rotations will take time for everyone to get used to, but Green was quick to find his stride alongside Harden and provide a good defensive presence. His playing time will likely increase while spending time as a small-ball center in the absence of Allen. 

Bruce Brown

B+

The stats: 7 PTS, 3-4 FG, 1-2 3PT, 5 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 TO, 23 MIN

Bruce Brown was the clear bench leader, finding opportunities as the starting lineup took care of the majority of the offensive looks. Oh, and this bucket was pretty timely.

Brown is likely going to see his playing time increase in Brooklyn’s new rotations as well, and he has shown no reason for that to be a bad thing. The Nets will need Brown to chip in on rebounding and defense off the bench, and if he can make game-clinching three-pointers too, then that is just icing on the cake.