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Nets run out of fuel against Rockets

James Harden scores 25 in 114-104 loss to former team

December 9, 2021 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge got some much-needed rest Wednesday night in Houston.

James Harden and the rest of the Nets got something entirely different.

Despite 25 points by Harden against his former team, Brooklyn was undermanned and got outclassed throughout a 114-104 loss to the streaking Rockets in front of 15,834 fans at Houston’s Toyota Center.

Less than 24 hours after Tuesday’s come-from-behind win in Dallas, the Nets (17-8) were without Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, and Aldridge, who has been one of the most productive players off the Brooklyn bench this year.

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The absences were felt almost immediately as the Rockets (8-16) ran out to a seven-point lead after one quarter and held a 67-52 advantage at halftime.

The Nets played Houston close to even in the third quarter before taking aim at a serious run in the fourth.

A 10-0 burst shaved the deficit to 97-91 with 7:21 remaining following a 3-pointer and free throw by Harden.

But Garrison Mathews’ shot from beyond the arc just over two minutes later gave Houston an eight-point cushion en route to its seventh consecutive win.

Eric Gordon scored 21 points and Mathews added 19 for the Rockets, who have recovered nicely since losing a league season-high 15 in a row earlier this year.

Garrison Mathews and the Rockets celebrated at Brooklyn’s expense Wednesday night in Houston. AP Photo by Eric Christian Smith

“When you beat a team like that it means something,” said Mathews of the Eastern Conference-leading Nets. “This streak’s been a huge boost to our confidence. It’s been a huge boost to our morale.”

Not so much for Brooklyn, which is 1-1 on this road trip and has dropped two of three overall heading into Friday’s game in Atlanta.

Harden, who fell to 1-1 against his former teammates since being acquired via trade by Brooklyn in January, went a dismal 3-of-12 from long range as the Nets made just eight of their 33 3-point attempts.

“I got the shots I wanted. I just didn’t make them,” he admitted.

Rookie Cam Thomas scored 18 points and Patty Mills added 12 for Brooklyn, which could have used Durant, Aldridge and perhaps even the still-in-exile Kyrie Irving on the second night of a back-to-back in Texas.

Paul Millsap added 10 points for Brooklyn, which had its six-game road winning streak snapped by the rejuvenated Rockets.

“The adversity that we went through prior to this point has made it even sweeter,” Houston coach Stephen Silas said. “We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

The Nets should get back to feeling the same way with Durant and Aldridge back on the floor in Atlanta Friday night.

Kevin Durant should be back on the hardwood Friday night in Atlanta after taking Wednesday’s game in Houston off to rest. AP Photo by Tony Dejak


NOTHING BUT NET: Harden, who won three scoring titles and a Most Valuable Player award during his years in Houston, was treated to a video tribute at the Toyota Center between the first and second quarters. “Very special,” Harden noted. “I spent some of my most amazing years here on the court and off the court.” … After visiting the Hawks on Friday, the Nets will wrap up this trip Sunday in Detroit before opening a five-game homestand at the Barclays Center on Tuesday vs. Toronto. … Brooklyn has not lost consecutive games yet this season, something that is on the line again Friday in Atlanta. … Mills led Australia to its first podium in men’s basketball this past summer at the Olympics, capturing bronze for himself and his countrymen. He received his native country’s Don Award last week. The Don Award is Australian sports’ highest honor, presented by Sport Australia’s Hall of Fame at its annual induction ceremony. “It means a lot, and I’ve said this before, but it’s something that as an athlete, you don’t set out to achieve these kinds of awards,” said Mills. “They’re recognition of everything that you do on the court and off the court and everything else, but I think the recognition isn’t necessarily about myself. It’s about the people that I try to inspire along the way and doing it in a way that I think how I carry myself — hopefully that can inspire certain people, especially everyone in Australia.”

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