Harden Returns as Nets Impress in Win Over Spurs

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Final: 05/12/2021

W 128 116

Pieces are starting to fall in place for the Nets.

Highlighted by James Harden’s long-awaited return, the Nets rode a strong offensive performance to a 128-116 victory over the Spurs on Wednesday. Landry Shamet’s 21 points led eight Nets in double figures (again) as the Nets moved to 1.5 games ahead of the Bucks in the No. 2 seed.

Harden looked like himself once again after coming off the bench in his first full game back in the better part of five weeks. He sat until the second quarter but quickly made his presence felt, particularly with his regular eye-popping assists.

No one was happier to see Harden back than his teammates, who often found themselves on the other end of his passes. The Beard’s 11 assists helped add to Brooklyn’s 33 on the night, a second straight game of great ball movement from the jump

The Nets held as large as a 19-point lead on the night after jumping out to a quick 15-point lead in the first quarter. The Spurs answered back in the second quarter, though, going on a 20-6 run to cut Brooklyn’s lead to as little as one.

Brooklyn bounced back behind offensive balance for the second straight night as the team shot 60.8% compared to the Spurs’ 42.6%. The three-ball accuracy was a bit improved as of late (12-of-28) and the Nets got their way in the paint, sporting a 68-62 advantage in points. 

The Spurs took advantage of the Nets’ mistakes, scoring 13 points off Brooklyn’s 11 turnovers, and continued to stay in the game thanks to a 16-3 advantage on the offensive glass. Still, the Nets had the offensive weapons to counter while the energy was there on defense.

DeMar DeRozan led the way for San Antonio with 21 points while Dejounte Murray added 15 points and 11 rebounds. The team put up 35 points in the fourth but did not pose enough of a threat to cut enough into Brooklyn’s lead. 

The Nets, currently on a three-game winning streak, hold the keys to their own destiny — if they win out, they will secure the No. 2 seed. Two games remain as the Sixers hold a 1.5-game lead in first place.

Kyrie Irving missed Wednesday’s game with his facial bruise, and Joe Harris missed his first game of the year due to left hip soreness. Could Brooklyn be back at near-full-health when it faces the Bulls again on Saturday?

We will just have to wait and see. 

Landry Shamet

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The stats: 21 PTS, 7-9 FG, 5-7 3PT, 2-2 FT, 3 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 35 MIN

It’s safe to say that Landry Shamet broke his slump.

Shamet stepped up with Joe Harris out and gave the Nets an early threat from deep. He led the way at halftime and added to that in the third as the Nets built their lead to as large as 19.

Landry did not score in the fourth as Harden came alive offensively, but he was big for the Nets as the Spurs knocked on the door in the second quarter. Brooklyn needs Shamet in peak form heading into the postseason and he seems to be shrugging off his cold slump at the right time.

James Harden

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The stats: 18 PTS, 6-8 FG, 3-4 3PT, 3-5 FT, 7 REB, 11 AST, 1 STL, 2 BLK, 4 TO, 26 MIN

Welcome back, James Harden.

James looked right at home as he got back to setting up his teammates and taking over the game. He looked a bit tentative to assert himself in the second quarter but ended his minutes with a scoring burst in a near triple-double.

James said after the game he liked the sixth- (or in this case, tenth) man role, and we’ll see if Steve Nash starts him on the bench again. Either way, it is great to see James back on the court and feeling his immediate impact — beyond the highlights. 

Nicolas Claxton

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The stats: 18 PTS, 7-8 FG, 4-7 FT, 5 REB, 1 STL, 2 BLK, 3 TO, 23 MIN

Nic Claxton has been putting up career marks over the last two games.

First, he recorded his first career double-double against the Bulls on Tuesday. Claxton then followed that up with a career-high 18 points on Wednesday.

Claxton has been showing his full effort on the court, shooting into passing lanes for a steal while holding his own in the paint. Perhaps no one is happier to have Harden back than Claxton, as he clearly benefitted from the attention drawn to the Beard and Kevin Durant. 

Jeff Green

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The stats: 16 PTS, 7-8 FG, 1-2 3PT, 1-2 FT, 1 REB, 19 MIN

Jeff Green has been a sneaky offensive threat off the bench. 

Uncle Jeff ran well both with Harden and KD, both getting to the rim and adding a three-point shot. He even had a stretch of possessions where he repeatedly tried to dunk, but ended up getting his floaters to go down instead against the Spurs’ defense.

Jeff had an injury scare when he went down with what seemed like an ankle tweak in the third quarter, but he ended up checking back into the game in the fourth. Jeff put up nearly a point per minute off the bench as he took advantage of his matchups inside.

Bruce Brown

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The stats: 14 PTS, 6-9 FG, 2-3 FT, 11 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 32 MIN

Bruce Brown continues to put up big numbers.

No highlights necessary, Brown followed up his 15-point performance on Tuesday with a double-double against the Spurs. He helped Brooklyn counter the Spurs’ strong rebounding presence while adding to the Nets’ points in the paint.

Bruce has been big for the Nets in Harden’s absence, and now that he’s back, Bruce has more room to lock in defensively and make an impact on the interior. He helped boost Brooklyn from the jump and again provided energy on both sides of the ball to help quiet the Spurs. 

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