Nets get Aldridge before topping T-Wolves
All-Star latest piece to Brooklyn's championship puzzle
First, the Nets landed yet another well-decorated All-Star.
Then, they went out and proved once again that they’re perfectly capable of winning without the extra help.
Hours after adding seven-time All-Star forward/center LaMarcus Aldridge to their already stacked roster, the Nets used James Harden’s team record-tying 12th triple-double and Kyrie Irving’s 27 points to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, 112-107, before 1,732 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“He’s a great player,” Brooklyn forward Blake Griffin said of Aldridge. “I’ve had so much respect for him for a long, long time. … I just have a ton of respect for him. He’s a basketball purist, loves basketball, loves to work on his game. I always align with that. I’m thrilled to have him.”
Aldridge, 35, accepted a buyout from San Antonio in order to join Griffin, Kevin Durant, Irving and Harden here as the Nets continue their quest for our borough’s first major pro sports championship since 1955.
The 6-foot-11 Dallas native is joining a team which has won 18 of its last 21 games and stands just one-half game behind Philadelphia for the best record in the Eastern Conference despite the ongoing absence of Durant, who is still recovering from a hamstring strain.
Irving, who sat out the previous three games to tend to a family matter, looked fine in his return to the hardwood, knocking down half of his 22 shots and grabbing seven rebounds.
“Getting thrown back out there – throwing myself back out there – felt good and like I said, I am just grateful to be able to play this game with everything going on in the world,” said Irving.
“You know, my teammates make it special, the coaching staff makes it special, the fans make it special.”
Despite Irving’s return, the Nets were once again driven to victory by Harden, their MVP candidate and a likely choice for his second straight Eastern Conference Player of the Month award.
“The Beard” matched Hall of Fame Nets point guard Jason Kidd’s mark for most triple-doubles in a single season in only his 32nd game with Brooklyn.
Harden, who came break the record here Wednesday night against his former Houston Rockets teammates, scored 38 points, ripped down 11 boards and handed out 13 assists for the Nets (32-15), who jumped on the struggling Timberwolves (11-36) early, but had to hold on to a slim advantage late.
“Just giving them opportunities down the stretch,” Harden lamented after scoring 13 fourth-quarter points, includig a 27-footer with just under four minutes to play that finally put the feisty T-Wolves away.
“If we get a shot attempt obviously we get a chance to make it and push the lead up and we’re not fighting through that. We just gotta be better individually and as a team.”
The Nets seem to be getting better every day.
At least on paper.
They’ve brought in Griffin and Aldridge to provide what general manager Sean Marks believes will be key minutes in big games once the Nets begin their postseason push.
But at this point, even Durant appears to be taking his time coming back from an injury that has sidelined him since Feb. 13.
The Nets aren’t likely to spend much time worrying about the remainder of this regular season, unless they feel its important to grab the No. 1 seed in the East and hold home-court advantage in the playoffs.
They will, however, fret about living up to the mountain of expectations that have been heaped upon them come the postseason.
“Right now we’re not playing great but we found a way to win,” rookie Nets head coach Steve Nash said of Monday’s victory.
“That’s the positive. The negative is we’re not pleased with the performance and that gives us motivation to improve.”
Improving via roster additions isn’t necessarily the key to the Nets’ title hopes, according to Harden.
“On paper it looks good, but we’ve got to actually get out there and get going,” he said. “I’m excited for those guys to get back very, very soon so we can get this thing going.”
It seems to be going just fine without them.
NOTHING BUT NET: Kidd had 12 triple-doubles in both the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons for the then-New Jersey-based franchise. … Aldridge will have to get into playing shape, likely at the team’s practice facility in Sunset Park, before joining the Nets on the hardwood next month. “He hasn’t played for a month, so got to get his conditioning, ramp up. So I’d say he probably won’t play for two, three, four games, we’ll see whatever that is, but not too long,” Nash said of Aldridge. “We think he needs some time to develop his conditioning and then we’ll get him out there.”… Following Wednesday night’s game vs. Houston, the Nets will close out their three-game homestand here Thursday night against Charlotte. … The Nets are 9-0 this season when Harden scores at least 30 points.
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