Brooklyn’s Big Three burns Atlanta
Durant, Harden and Irving help Nets outlast Hawks in OT
James Harden is fitting in just fine.
Kevin Durant is “a walking bucket”, according to Nets head coach Steve Nash.
And Kyrie Irving is “very grateful to be playing with” his fellow superstars.
In other words, Brooklyn’s Big Three is firing on all cylinders of late.
“James is going to be James. My thing is whenever I am out there is to complement him and then the same thing with Kevin and everyone else — it just is that we want to complement each other well,” Irving said after Wednesday night’s 132-128 overtime win in Atlanta.
Durant scored 32 points, Harden had 31 points and 15 assists and Irving added 26 points for Brooklyn, which opened a three-game road trip with its third consecutive win in front of 1,008 fans, approximatey six percent of capacity, at State Farm Arena.
“So, envy and jealously as young men are definitely emotions that you can get caught up in, but at this point we don’t want to take this for granted,” Irving noted.
If the Nets’ high-priced triumvirate keeps playing like this, it’ll leave the rest of the league gushing with envy.
Brooklyn has won seven of its last nine games overall and is 5-2 since acquiring Harden from Houston on Jan. 14.
“That’s a good test for our guys against a really good team, a team that’s going to be there at the end at some point,” Atlanta head coach Lloyd Pierce said.
Harden, who has been trying to fit his high-scoring game into the Brooklyn offense, only managed two points in the first quarter against the Hawks as he continued to play the role of facilitator.
But after some prodding from Nash and the Nets’ bench, the former NBA Most Valuable Player and three-time scoring champion went to work. He poured in 16 points in the second quarter en route to his highest-scoring game as a Net.
“I don’t want to force him (to score),” Nash said. “He knows what he’s doing and he knows where his body’s at and where this process of assimilating to a new group is.
“We want him to aggressive, but we’re gonna give him his head and let him decide how he plays, but we definitely love it when he’s aggressive and there’s some tough matchups out there for him and he got going at an important time and we found a way to get it done, somehow.”
The Nets nearly got it done in regulation after veteran forward Jeff Green took a feed from Harden and drove the lane for a 116-114 lead with just over a minute to play.
But Atlanta’s Cam Reddish answered with a basket with 30 seconds to go to force the extra session.
From there, Brooklyn spread the wealth.
Green followed a jumper by Irving with a thunderous dunk and added a long 3-pointer on a feed from Harden. Durant followed with a pair of slams on the Nets’ next two trips to make it 129-123 with 1:25 left in overtime.
“It’s a total team effort out there,” said Irving, who also had seven assists. “We’re only as great as we all come out and execute. So to see a lot of our guys come off the bench and give us a lot of much-needed energy, sustained the lead and even took the lead at a certain point throughout the game.
“So just give them credit and I’m grateful to have teammates like that come in and just leave it all on the line.”
Bruce Brown led Brooklyn’s supporting cast with 12 points and Green and DeAndre Jordan added 11 apiece for the Nets, who will visit Oklahoma City on Friday night looking to match a season-high four-game winning streak.
“It’s huge,” Green said of kicking off the trip on a positive note. “Especially when we handle business today, the transfer from last game like I talked about was there.
“We showed resilience and fight in the whole game when things weren’t going our way but we showed character tonight and that’s what it’s going to take for us on the road.”
It’s also going to take some defense, which Brooklyn has been sorely lacking during the early stages of this highly anticipated campaign.
Fortunately for the Nets, however, having a prolific offense. spearheaded by its three-headed monster, is proving to be enough through 20 games.
“We just gutted it out,” said Nash. “It was just fine margins, made enough baskets, made enough hustle plays, enough rebounds, just to get us over the line. It wasn’t pretty, but we found a way and we’ll take it.”
Nothing But Net: The Nets snapped a two-game road losing streak Wednesday after dropping a two-game series in Cleveland last week. … Brooklyn split a pair of meetings with Atlanta at Barclays Center on Dec. 30 and Jan. 1, respectively. … Following their visit to Oklahoma City on Friday, the Nets will visit the Wizards in Washington on Sunday before hosting the Los Angeles Clippers in Brooklyn next Tuesday.
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