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Harden heals, but Nets get burnt by Suns

Superstar returns from hand injury in 121-111 road loss

February 2, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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James Harden’s strained right hand healed enough to let him play in Phoenix on Tuesday night.

It hardly mattered against the hottest team in the NBA.

Harden and the slumping Brooklyn Nets suffered their season-high fifth consecutive defeat, 121-111, to the streaking Suns in front of 17,701 fans at the Footprint Center.

Nets head coach Steve Nash indicated before tip-off that Harden, who had missed the previous two contests due to the injury, including Saturday night’s loss at Golden State, was ready to go against Phoenix in the second leg of Brooklyn’s four-game road trip.

“I think he’s feeling less irritation,” Nash said before watching “The Beard” put up 22 points and 10 assists.

“So the inflammation’s come down,” he added. “Therefore, the irritation is much better, and he feels like he’s functioning well, so we’re very hopeful.”

Kyrie Irving’s team-high 26 points weren’t enough to help the Nets snap a five-game losing streak in Phoenix Tuesday. AP Photo by Matt York

Those hopes appeared to be dashed quickly in Phoenix as the league-leading Suns (41-9), winners of 11 in a row, (41-9) raced out to a 39-29 lead after one quarter and held a 65-58 advantage by intermission.

Brooklyn (29-21), which is minus Kevin Durant for at least the next month with a knee sprain and is also missing LaMarcus Aldridge and Joe Harris due to ankle injuries, battled back to forge a tie in the third quarter before the Suns pulled away for a 91-82 cushion heading into the final 12 minutes.

The Suns used a 19-6 fourth-quarter run to put the Nets away, leaving Brooklyn to wait until Wednesday night in Sacramento to end its longest losing streak since January 2020.

“It’s a tough assignment. They have a lot of two-way players,” Nash said of the Suns.”We came up short tonight, but we are heading in the right direction.”

Kyrie Irving, limited to road games due to his lack of compliance with New York City’s vaccination mandates, finished with a team-high 26 points and Blake Griffin added 17 for the Nets, who outshot the Suns from 3-point range but allowed Phoenix to shoot 55 percent from the floor overall.

Devin Booker poured in 35 points and Mikal Bridges had 27 for Phoenix, which hasn’t lost since Jan. 8 vs. Miami.

“We’ve had a tough schedule with a lot of guys out of the lineup,” Nash noted. “We hung around a lot tonight, but didn’t get the breaks.”

Devin Booker and the Suns posted their 11th straight victory Tuesday night against the visiting Brooklyn Nets. AP Photo by Matt York

NOTHING BUT NET: BSE Global, the parent company of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, on Tuesday announced the resignation of CEO John Abbamondi, effective at the end of July. Abbamondi will continue serving as CEO through the end of the season while a search for a new CEO will begin immediately. “We are grateful for John’s leadership and many contributions to our organization,” said Joe Tsai, chairman of BSE Global and Governor of the Brooklyn Nets. “John has demonstrated tremendous heart and expertise in guiding BSE Global through the challenges of the pandemic. During his tenure, the Brooklyn Nets set franchise records for attendance, ticket revenue and sponsorships. We appreciate John’s help in ensuring a smooth transition for his successor, and we are excited about the future of BSE Global.” … The Nets will visit Utah on Friday and Denver on Sunday before returning to Brooklyn Tuesday night to host Boston.

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