Harden Scores 44 as Nets Get Chippy Win Against Pistons

C-

Final: 03/26/2021

W 113 111

Screenshot via YES Network

The Nets are likely happy they do not have to face the Pistons again this season. 

After yet another too-close-for-comfort game against the struggling Pistons, the Nets wrapped up the season series against Detroit with a 113-111 win on Friday. James Harden, who made his return to the lineup, led the way with a season-high of 44 points, along with 14 rebounds and eight assists. 

The game, which seemed like it would never end, was tied with just over two minutes remaining, but Harden remained aggressive and Jeff Green made a clutch three-pointer to put the Nets up five with under a minute left. The teams traded fouls to close the game and the Pistons had a chance to tie it — or win — after a steal off the Nets’ in-bounds, but Nic Claxton prevented Cory Joseph from getting off a shot in the paint to seal the deal. 

The Nets had their three-pointers to thank for creating some space in the fourth quarter in a game they nearly let slip away. Green, Harden, Blake Griffin and Tyler Johnson heated up from distance to give Brooklyn a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter while the team finished 13-of-33 from three on the night. 

The three-point surge was a welcomed sight for Brooklyn, but it only helped cover for defensive mistakes as the Nets could not get stops. Detroit trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half but attacked the paint to pull ahead in the third quarter and stayed within striking distance until the end. 

The game was a physical one from the start, as represented by the five total technical fouls and 57 total personal fouls committed, 30 of which belonged to Detroit. It was an ugly game, one the Nets were able to just barely grind out.

The Nets got a big boost from Griffin, who made his return to Detroit for the first time as a Net. He scored 17 points off the bench, including nine in the second half — and this staredown lob.

Amid the physicality, the Nets made their presence in the paint known thanks to DeAndre Jordan and Claxton. Brooklyn tallied 16 offensive rebounds on the night to go with their 44-36 edge in points in the paint, and DJ and Claxton were all over the boards.

Brooklyn largely took care of the ball with 10 turnovers committed, but five of those came in the third quarter, which allowed the Pistons to gain momentum. Detroit capitalized as they succeeded in one-on-one matchups and four players finished in double figures, led by Jerami Grant’s 19 points. 

The Nets shot 44% from the field on the night while the Pistons were a notch better at 45.2%. Brooklyn allowed Detroit to get continuous looks at the charity stripe as they shot 34-of-47 from the free-throw line.

The Nets were still without Kyrie Irving (personal) and Landry Shamet (right ankle sprain). Harden is still dealing with a sore neck to an extent, but that did not hinder him from putting the team on his back in a win where Steve Nash said after the game that his team did not respect the competition while the Pistons kept pushing. 

It was not pretty, and it was much closer than it had to be — but a win is a win. Brooklyn has two days of rest after wrapping up three games in four days on the road, and Harden said after the game that Irving and Durant could be back as early as next week.

The time off should do the Nets well with a home game against the Timberwolves awaiting on Monday, and with the team potentially at full health, time is of the essence to form chemistry before the playoffs. 

James Harden

A

The stats: 44 PTS, 14-30 FG, 4-11 3PT, 12-14 FT, 14 REB, 8 AST, 1 STL, 3 TO, 42 MIN

We saw last game how the Nets look without Harden, and he got right back to running the show on Friday. 

Though he had neck soreness and later said he was dealing with a “banged up knee,” it did not seem like Harden was in any discomfort. He was back running the offense, but as teammates missed shots, he became more aggressive to record a season-high 44 points.

The Nets relied on Harden big-time as he even got his step-back three-pointer falling again. Harden said after the game that he thinks he is the MVP this season, and with the load he has carried for the Nets with Irving and KD taking turns being out, it is becoming hard to argue. 

Blake Griffin

A-

The stats: 17 PTS, 5-8 FG, 2-2 3PT, 5-6 FT, 3 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 TO, 20 MIN

Revenge game? Oh yes.

Blake’s return to Detroit was a chippy one as he got a technical and was involved in an ejection for the Pistons after being elbowed, but he never backed down. His three-point contributions came at key points and he was on the other end of some standout lobs.

Harden and Blake are clicking immediately, and it has not taken long for Blake to have a monumental impact on a victory. He played with passion against his former team, and Brooklyn likely would not have won without him. 

DeAndre Jordan

B

The stats: 10 PTS, 5-8 FG, 9 REB, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 20 MIN

Six (!) offensive boards for DeAndre against the Pistons.

DJ at times had difficulty defending Mason Plumlee, who finished with a double-double, but he had great positioning and passes to give the Nets extra chances. He fought for rebounds and remained aggressive in tapping the ball out to the right person and resetting the clock.

The Nets may not be at their best with DJ on the floor, but he shows his value in different ways. Recently, he has been one of the team’s top scorers thanks to his connection with Harden, and the Nets needed every second-chance opportunity he provided against the Pistons. 

Joe Harris

C+

The stats: 9 PTS, 3-8 FG, 2-3 3PT, 1-2 FT, 2 REB, 3 AST, 29 MIN

Joe was a team-worst minus-seven — that does not happen often.

Joe was aggressive early but seemed to fall off in the second half. He is being covered more with Kyrie out and struggled to break through against Detroit.

In a perfect world, Joe would have had quite a few more three-point attempts, but it was not in the cards. The Nets need to make sure Joe gets opportunities throughout the game, especially if he is hitting from distance.

Tyler Johnson

B+

The stats: 8 PTS, 3-8 FG, 2-6 3PT, 3 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 28 MIN

Tyler Johnson’s three-pointers could not have come at a better time.

With the Nets struggling to build and maintain a lead, Johnson came up with a pair of three-pointers at the beginning of the fourth quarter to help build a double-digit lead. That did not last for long, though, as the Pistons were right back in it at the end.

Tyler could be more accurate with his other shots, but with his teammates struggling to break through, he made an impact and got the ball moving with four assists off the bench. Tyler will lose playing time once Kyrie is back, but he played important roles in both of Brooklyn’s victories on the road. 

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