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‘Frustrated’ Harden sits as Nets fall again

Superstar out with hamstring tightness in loss to Nuggets

January 26, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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James Harden expressed his frustration with the Brooklyn Nets’ struggles before Wednesday night’s game against Denver at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

He couldn’t have felt any better afterward.

Harden sat out with hamstring tightness, leaving the short-handed Nets without any of their three superstars in a 124-118 loss to the visiting Nuggets in front of a capacity crowd of 18,011 on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

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After putting up a triple-double in Tuesday’s home loss to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, Harden was unable to go in the second half of the back-to-back.

The former NBA Most Valuable Player and three-time scoring leader was trying for the second straight night to fill the void left by injured fellow superstars Kevin Durant (sprained knee) and Kyrie Irving, who remains ineligible to play in Brooklyn because he is unvaccinated.

“It is a challenge,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said of making sure Harden stays healthy while his two counterparts remain sidelined.

“We would like to protect him more,” Nash added. “But he’s a competitor and wants to be out there so we try to have our little tug of war and I think that’s why at times we’d like to ask him to miss games so that he can regenerate and be a little bit safer as far as being ready to go when the playoffs begin.”

Harden, rumored to be at odds with the organization over Irving’s ongoing road-games-only status and Nash’s player rotation, according to a story in Bleacher Report, expressed himself more clearly after Tuesday’s defeat.

“Of course I’m frustrated because we’re not healthy,” he noted. “There’s a lot of inconsistency for whatever reason. Injuries, COVID, whatever you want to call it. But yeah, it’s frustrating. I think everybody in this organization is frustrated because we are better than what our record is and we should be on the way up.”

James Harden had to sit out the Nets’ loss to Denver at Barclays Center Wednesday night with hamstring tightness. AP Photo by Frank Franklin II

Having lost three in a row and 10 of their last 16 games, the Nets (29-19) hardly have the look or swagger of a team that was supposed to breeze to the Eastern Conference crown.

Brooklyn was up 65-54 at intermission, but Denver (26-21) responded with a 42-point third quarter, outscoring the Nets by 22 over the fateful 12-minute stretch.

The Nuggets saw their lead shaved to 116-113 with 5:18 left to play before Aaron Gordon drilled a 12-foot pull-up jumper to stave off Brooklyn’s late rally.

Rookie Cam Thomas did his best to fill the scoresheet with a career-high 25 points and Patty Millls knocked down six 3-pointers on the way to 21 points for the Nets, who will at the very least get Irving back when they open a four-game road trip at Golden State Sunday.

Nikola Jokic had 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for the Nuggets, who won their third straight game.

Brooklyn was also without center Nic Claxton (hamstring) in Wednesday’s defeat, adding to their recent woes.

“When we get bodies back, we’ll be in a better place,” Nash insisted.

Head coach Steve Nash saw his team lose its third straight after playing without any of their three superstars Wednesday. AP Photo by Adam Hunger

As for Harden, Brooklyn has to hope that “The Beard” is just going through a phase here in our borough and isn’t interested in exercising his right to be a free agent following the season.

“I think James is happy to be here,” Nash said. “I just think it’s frustrating right now because we haven’t played great basketball, we’ve had a lot of injuries, we’ve had a lot of illness.

“A lot of guys in and out of the lineup. A lot of chop and change so that can be frustrating for sure to not have that kind of consistency to build on. And we haven’t had our best performances.”


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