James Harden admits he is still trying to figure out how to play his best basketball for the Brooklyn Nets after an ordinary display in the 113-107 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.

Harden registered his fourth triple-double of the season, but he had seven turnovers and shot poorly, going none-for-six from three-point range for his 12 points under close guarding from Mikal Bridges.

The 2018 MVP also shot four-for-16 from the field, finishing with 13 rebounds and 14 assists, as his up-and-down season continues.

Harden is averaging 20.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 9.2 assists per game this season, with his offensive output the most alarming decline on his 25.0 career average.

The 32-year-old averaged 24.6 points for the Nets following his January move from the Houston Rockets, with injuries impacting his continuity after the switch and into this season as well as developing cohesion with his new side.

"Honestly I’m trying to figure all that out right now," Harden said at the post-game news conference. “I’m trying to figure it out.

"Trying to figure out when to score, when to be a playmaker when to run offense, when to do a little bit of everything.

"Just trying to figure it out it’s been a little difficult especially since you know, well whatever, but it’s been a little difficult but I’m just trying to figure it out."

Nets head coach Steve Nash admitted it was a "tough night" for Harden, who was jeered by some fans at the Barclays Center upon his seventh turnover.

"It was a tough night for him," Nash said during the news conference. "Some turnover issues. He didn’t get a lot of good looks.

"That's part of our growth too, trying to figure out ways for him to be effective, even if he's not getting to the rim."

The Phoenix Suns extended their winning streak to 16 games on Saturday with a 113-107 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, who gave up 20 turnovers for the game.

The Nets coughed up 15 turnovers in the first half alone as the Suns claimed an early lead and were never headed, led by Devin Booker (30 points and four assists) and Chris Paul (22 points, eight rebounds and five assists).

James Harden managed a triple-double but it was far from his best game with seven turnovers while only scoring 12 points, going zero-of-four from beyond the arc. Harden also had 13 rebounds and 14 assists.

Kevin Durant top scored for the Nets with 39 points along with nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals but also had five turnovers.

The Suns can equal their franchise record winning streak when they face the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Phoenix's 17-3 mark for the season is their best record through 20 games since 2004-05.

 

Embiid returns with a bang

Joel Embiid scored 42 points and had 14 rebounds on his return after nine games out due to COVID-19 protocols but could not lift the sliding Philadelphia 76ers to victory, going down 121-120 to the Minnesota Timberwolves in double over-time. Embiid had a shot to win the game but was blocked by Anthony Edwards on the buzzer.

Luka Doncic scored 33 points with 10 assists as the Dallas Mavericks were beaten 120-114 by the Washington Wizards with Bradley Beal hitting 26 points. The Wizards improve to 13-7.

Houston Rockets center Christian Wood had a huge game with 33 points and 16 rebounds as his side defeated the Charlotte Hornets 146-143 in over-time.

 

Randle loses his handle

Julius Randle only managed eight points, shooting three-of-14 from the field as the New York Knicks beat the Atlanta Hawks 99-90.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash believes the referees are to learn how to officiate the NBA's new rules on taking fouls after James Harden had 20 free-throws in Friday's 115-113 win over the Orlando Magic.

Harden starred in the absence of Kevin Durant for the Nets with 36 points including 19 from the line.

The 2018 NBA MVP's form has been down to start the season, with his inability to draw fouls under the new rules seen as partly responsible.

Harden only had 15 free-throws in his first five games this season, but has drawn 43 in the Nets' past three games.

Nash said the uplift in the numbers was a combination of Harden being more aggressive and the referees officiating differently.

"I think both. I think the referees are starting to figure out what's still a foul and what's not a basketball play," Nash said at the post-game news conference.

"I think early it was difficult for them to know what the line was. He's such a difficult guy to over with his size, quickness and ability to shoot over anyone from three.

"Guys have to get too close to him, he's so strong once he gets a slight angle on you or step on you, it's almost impossible not to foul him.

"That's what makes him brilliant, his ability to penetrate and take contact."

Nash was full of praise for Harden, who has scored 35 or more points in two of the Nets' past five games as begins to re-discover his top form.

Harden is averaging 20.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game this season, but he is also averaging 28.4 points from his past five games.

"Great competitiveness, playing for the team, spirit was great," Nash said. "Obviously he can do some playmaking out there. He can attack the basket with his quickness and size.

"He rebounded the ball for us. Huge effort for him everyone pitched in. It was not an easy game for us. we had to find a way to make it happen."

Durant missed the game with a shoulder sprain but Nash said it was not a major concern.

"We don't feel concerned that it'll linger or that he'd miss the next game," he said pre-game.

LeBron James returned from injury but could not prevent the Los Angeles Lakers from suffering their third straight defeat going down 130-108 to the Boston Celtics.

Jayson Tatum starred for the Celtics with 37 points, 11 rebounds and two assists, while Marcus Smart was excellent with 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

James had 23 points, six rebounds and two assists on his return from an abdominal strain, while Anthony Davis top scored for the Lakers with 31 points.

The four-time MVP showed no signs of injury in the first quarter, helping the Lakers to a strong start, combining with Davis for 22 points, which was their second most in an opening period in the past two seasons.

The Lakers held the lead at half-time but the Celtics hit back in the third quarter with an 8-0 run, opening up an 11-point lead at the final change after a 33-21 period.

The defeat means the 2020 NBA champions have lost seven of their past 10 games and slip to an 8-9 record, while the Celtics improve to 8-8.

 

Suns' hot streak continues

Chris Paul had 18 points and 14 assists as the Phoenix Suns secured their 11th straight win, triumphing 112-104 over the Dallas Mavericks, who were without Luka Doncic due to knee and ankle injuries.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 21 points and 19 rebounds in the Milwaukee Bucks' 96-89 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, as Khris Middleton passed Ray Allen for most three-pointers made in franchise history (1,052), hitting three triples in his 16 points.

The Golden State Warriors won without Stephen Curry (bruised hip) and Draymond Green (bruised thigh), with Jordan Poole stepping up with 32 points including four three-pointers in a 105-102 win over the Detroit Pistons.

James Harden shot seven of 25 from the field and had six turnovers but finished with 36 points,10 rebounds and eight assists in Kevin Durant's absence ot lead the Brooklyn Nets past the Orlando Magic 115-113.

Zach LaVine scored 36 points in the Chicago Bulls 114-108 win over the Denver Nuggets who were missing Nikola Jokic, while LaMelo Ball starred with 32 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in the Charlotte Hornets' 121-118 victory against the Indiana Pacers.

 

Pelicans clip wayward George 

Paul George shot eight of 26 from the field as the Los Angeles Clippers went down to the New Orleans Pelicans 94-81.

Music echoes through State Farm Arena and the crowd cheers as Trae Young dribbles the ball up the court for the Atlanta Hawks.

Like so many possessions in the NBA, the action begins with a team-mate – in this case, John Collins or Clint Capela – screening the on-ball defender, the man guarding Young.

Young is a good three-point shooter, so his defender must go over the screen. Young has seen this kind of defence countless times before and immediately dashes towards the hoop on the opposite side of the screener of his defender.

This leaves Young’s man mostly behind him, sprinting to get back into a better guarding position. Feeling his advantage, Young stops suddenly – or even pounces backward a bit – creating contact with his defender and launching a shot while flailing his limbs to exaggerate the contact.

Only, this season, NBA officials aren’t blowing the whistle.

The league placed an emphasis this offseason on reducing “overt, abrupt or abnormal non-basketball moves” that are employed specifically used to draw fouls, commonly known as foul-baiting.

While drawing fouls has always been a skill in basketball, the NBA felt that certain players were warping their movements in unnatural ways to get to the free-throw line and making the game less enjoyable to watch for most fans.

The changes have been dramatic league-wide, with teams averaging 19.6 free throw attempts per game, on pace to be the lowest in league history. Each team is committing just 18.8 fouls per game, on pace to be an all-time low.

And while free throw attempts have been down in the last decade due to the three-point shooting boom, an NBA game this season averages 4.4 fewer free throw attempts than one last season.

Young, fairly or not, has become the poster child for foul-baiting and has struggled to adjust early in the 2021-22 season. In an October 30 press conference, Young said he thinks the rule changes have gone too far.

“I don’t want to get fined too much, but this is frustrating,” Young said after a loss.

“When guys are driving straight and getting knocked off balance, it’s still a foul. There are a lot of things that they took out that were necessary – veering back and jumping into guys – that’s different. There’s certain things I agree with in the rule changes and there are things that are still fouls.

“Guys are going to get hurt, especially a little guy like me who is going up against bigger and stronger defenders.”

This season, Young is getting to the line 3.1 fewer times per game, on average, compared to last season. The fourth-year guard has kept his scoring average steady, though, by shooting career highs from the field and from three-point range.

Other stars have fared not quite as well.

Among qualified players, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazer has seen his opportunities at the line drop the most in the NBA, a reduction of 3.8 attempts per game. Lillard has struggled in general this season, with his scoring average down more than eight points and with career-low shooting efficiency.

The Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal has lost 3.7 free throw attempts from last season, the second most in the league, and has also seen his scoring drop eight points per game.

Only five of the league’s 30 teams have increased the number of free throw attempts per game over last season, led by the Chicago Bulls, who appear to be thriving under current rules with a new roster.

The Bulls are shooting an average of 2.5 more free throws per game than last season, thanks largely to the red-hot start of DeMar DeRozan, whose 7.9 free throw attempts per game are his highest since 2016-17 (8.7).

The Bulls as a whole rank eighth in the league in scoring defence this season, allowing 103.3 points per game after giving up 111.6 per game last season.

Largest improvement in points per game allowed Rank Team 2020-21 2021-22 Diff 1 Washington Wizards 118.5 103.0 -15.5 2 Denver Nuggets 110.1 98.9 -11.2 3 Golden State Warriors 112.7 101.6 -11.1 4 Cleveland Cavaliers 112.3 101.6 -10.7 5 Minnesota Timberwolves 117.7 107.4 -10.3 6 Brooklyn Nets 114.1 104.1 -10.0 7 Oklahoma City Thunder 115.6 105.9 -9.7 8 Indiana Pacers 115.3 106.8 -8.5 9 Chicago Bulls 111.6 103.3 -8.3 10 Sacramento Kings 117.4 110.5 -6.9

Teams are scoring 5.3 fewer points per game compared to 2020-21, and some of the league’s more defensive-minded players are finally feeling like they have a fair chance.

When asked about the officiating changes, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green couldn’t help but express his elation.

"Can I say how satisfying it is to watch the game without all those terrible calls? Guys cheating the game and grabbing guys and getting the foul," said the six-time All-Defensive Team honoree and 2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year.

"I've been really enjoying watching basketball this year. I kind of had stopped watching the NBA a bit because it was just too flailing and flopping and guys cheating the game and getting free throws. So I think that's been great."

Former center and current ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins, who built a 14-season NBA career as a defensive enforcer, has been among the media personalities who are most supportive of a more physical league.

“I love the rule change. I think it’s great for basketball. Now the older generation doesn’t have a reason to call us soft – the league is getting back to that point,” Perkins said on ESPN’s NBA Today.

“I’m a huge fan of Trae Young, but some of the calls are just not fouls, and he’s just going to have to fight through.”

Some players may already be adjusting to a different style of basketball, including infamous flailer James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets. Through his first 12 games of the season, Harden was averaging just 18.2 points and attempting 4.7 free throws per game.

Over his last four games, however, Harden is scoring a more typical 26.5 points per game and getting to the line an average of 10.8 times.

As the league starts to adjust, some in NBA circles are sceptical that scoring numbers will remain suppressed.

Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins has commented that the league’s dip in scoring could be attributed to players “trying to find rhythm and chemistry” and added that over the course of 82 games, the scoring totals “will definitely change league-wide.”

While players may adjust, the NBA appears adamant about keeping the emphasis in place as-is. In fact, teams are averaging even fewer free throw attempts in November than they did in October.

One unintended consequence of the change could be less willingness to drive into traffic, leading to more three-point attempts. While teams are launching an all-time high 35.7 attempts from deep per game, that trend has long been established, with the league breaking the record for three-point attempts per game in 10 straight seasons.

Whether it’s with deep shooting or another tactic, offences are sure to counter with new ways to find good shots.

"The league is an efficient market and is going to make adjustments," said Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. "As offences boom, you figure out new ways to defend. It's a constant ping-pong game between both ends of the floor."

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash labelled Kevin Durant as "one of the best who has ever played the game" after the superstar's latest achievement.

Durant posted 23 points in the NBA championship-chasing Nets' 109-99 win at home to Eastern Conference rivals the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

Two-time champion Durant nailed two three-pointers to move 26th on the all-time NBA list with 1,687 threes, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Nash.

"He's one of the best who has ever played the game so it's no surprise. It was coming I'm sure," Nash said after the Nets bounced back from Tuesday's blow-out loss to the league-leading Golden State Warriors.

James Harden fuelled the Nets with 27 points, while Patty Mills added 21 points to give Brooklyn four 20-point scorers for the first time this season.

The Nets have won eight of their past 10 games to be 11-5 to open the 2021-22 campaign.

"A lot of ups and downs. In the second half, we just had a meltdown and they capitalised. They made shots," Harden said post-game.

"We are fortunate they missed a lot of open shots. In the second half, they made a lot of them, so the good thing is we came away with the win and we just got to keep improving. No excuses.

"It wasn't a good showing for four quarters, but we came away with the win and we just got to keep pushing forward."

Mills added: "Nothing's gonna be handed to us on a silver platter. It's a grind, it's a marathon.

"And nights like tonight, you just got to dig deep and find a way to be infectious in a good way and be able to spread those good vibes on the court, on the bench, no matter what it is."

 

 

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash says his side are not in the category of this season's NBA elite after a blowout 117-99 loss to the 12-2 Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.

The star-studded Nets, who were billed as title favourites this season, were humbled on their home court, with their record moving to 10-5.

The Nets added James Harden in January alongside Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant last season, but crashed out in the conference semi-finals to eventual champions the Milwaukee Bucks.

Brooklyn are 0-4 against this season's early contenders, the Warriors, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Bucks.

"Well, I just don't think we're in that [elite] category yet," Nash said at the post-game news conference. "We've got a lot of work to do.

"We're trying to improve as a group, get better and hopefully we can find a way to overcome some of our deficiencies by the end of the year.

"The guys have been great buying into the things we want to do defensively. I think offensively we have all these different line-ups, different backgrounds, styles of play, 10 new players in our team, it takes time.

"We started the year with a continuity plan from last year that got thrown out when Ky [Kyrie Irving] didn't come back. Tonight was a great lesson for us that we've got to double down on some of our principles when the going gets tough."

Durant had his lowest points return for the season with 19, as the Warriors piled on a 35-18 third quarter, before benching star guard Stephen Curry, who was in foul trouble, for the majority of the final period.

Harden has had a slow start to the season by his standards after rehabbing a hamstring injury over the offseason, averaging 19.8 points per game.

The 32-year-old scored 24 points in Tuesday's defeat but remained bullish about the Nets, reiterating it is still early in the season.

"The goal is to be the best team at the end of the season, in the postseason," Harden said at the post-game news conference.

"That's the goal. But probably not [there yet]. We're probably nowhere near. But it's a long season for us to get better, and we will continue to get better."

Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant continues to shine in the NBA, but he is playing through a "little tweak" to his shoulder.

Durant maintained his MVP-calibre start to the season in Sunday's 120-96 rout of former team the Oklahoma City Thunder, scoring 33 points.

Despite the issue, two-time NBA champion Durant has scored at least 20 points in all 14 of his games in 2021-22 – one short of Karl Malone's record (15) set in 1997-98.

After making nine of his 17 shots from the field while collecting eight rebounds and dishing out four assists, Durant said of his shoulder: "It's solid.

"A little sore here and there, but I played, didn't get in the way too much. Keep getting treatment and take it a day at a time."

Nets head coach Steve Nash allayed concerns of Durant's shoulder post-game in Oklahoma.

"He's got a little tweak. But the ball still goes in the hole so I think he's hanging in there," Nash said.

"I don't think it's the type of thing that we expect to get worse so he's kind of playing through it, so it's not terrible."

It was a reunion for Durant, who spent eight seasons in Oklahoma City and was crowned NBA MVP before joining the Warriors in 2016.

Durant – who is 9-4 in games against his former teams – was booed by the crowd throughout the contest.

"You think about the foundation and how you built yourself up as a pro, and this is definitely the spot for me," he said. "It taught me all about what it means to be a pro.

"The people here and the organisation really guided me as a young player. That set the foundation for where I am today. There are a lot of great memories coming back, seeing a lot of people. It's good to see folks here and play in front of the crowd … I had a good time."

It was also a reunion for Nets team-mate James Harden, who started his career with the Thunder prior to moving to the Houston Rockets.

Harden – who finished with 16 points and 13 assists – and Durant were part of the Thunder team that progressed to the 2012 NBA Finals.

"It's crazy how stuff happens," Durant said. "You never thought when James got traded — I didn't know what the future would hold.

"For us to come back around on the same team as we got older is pretty sweet. ... We helped build this thing. It's good to come in here and see what it is today."

Stephen Curry reached 40 points or more for the third time this season as the Golden State Warriors' electric start to the season continued with a 119-93 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday.

Curry finished with 40 points, including nine-for-17 three-pointers, along with five assists and four rebounds as the Warriors improved to 11-1.

The two-time MVP starred with 15 points in the third quarter alone, almost outscoring the Bulls as the Warriors piled on 35-17 points. Curry also passed Ray Allen's 3,358 all-time NBA mark for the most three-pointers made in regular season and playoffs games.

The result marks the Warriors' second-best ever start in franchise history, with their only loss coming in overtime against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Golden State are one of nine teams in NBA history to start the season without a regulation-time loss in their first 12 games, the best being the 2015-16 Warriors with 24 games.

 

Harden hits season high

James Harden backed up Wednesday's triple-double with a season-high 39 points including six three-pointers for the Brooklyn Nets in a 120-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. Harden got a double-double, with 12 assists along with five rebounds, while Kevin Durant added 28 points. Joe Harris shot six-for-six from three-point range in the first half, becoming the first player this season to achieve the feat.

Nikola Jokic returned from his one-game ban with a triple-double as the Denver Nuggets got past the Atlanta Hawks 105-96, with 22 points, 10 assists and 19 rebounds. Luka Doncic also registered a triple-double with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the San Antonio Spurs 123-109.

Denis Schroder had a season-high 38 points as the Boston Celtics won 122-113 in overtime over the Milwaukee Bucks, who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle) and Khris Middleton (COVID-19).

 

LeBron-less Lakers floored

Carmelo Anthony scored one-for-12 from the field while starter Kent Bazemore finished with zero points as the Los Angeles Lakers, missing LeBron James, lost 107-83 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Emerging point guard Ja Morant had five turnovers and shot 10-for-19 from the field as the Memphis Grizzlies were beaten by the Phoenix Suns 119-94.

James Harden says he is getting back to his best but admits the high standards expected will not come easy after a season-high 39 points as the Brooklyn Nets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 120-112.

Harden improved his season average to 19.8 points per game with his haul against the Pelicans where he landed five three-pointers and registered a double-double with 12 assists too.

The 32-year-old guard's offensive output this season contrasted dramatically with his career average of 25.0 points per game, along with career-best 36.1 points per game in the 2018-19 season with the Houston Rockets.

Harden had started the new campaign slowly after rehabbing his hamstring over the offseason but is starting to return to his best, with a triple-double against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.

"I'm getting there. It wasn’t going to take long," Harden told reporters after the Pelicans win.

"This is the most talented players in the world. It's not going to be easy for me to just come out and do what I do. It takes a lot of reps, a lot of hard work to get to that point, to be playing at a point that you've seen me playing at.

"When I'm not scoring 30 points and I'm averaging 18-something points, it's like 'what's wrong with James?'. It's like, that's pretty solid still.

"I've been playing so well [in previous years], at another level where you guys set standards for me. I set standards for myself as well. for me I've just got to continue to work. I'm getting a lot better. The work don't stop."

Harden has shown flashes of his best at times throughout the early part of the season but is yet to put together a consistent run of high scoring, having reached 20 points in only four games this season prior to Friday's win.

The 2018 MVP's 39 points against the Pelicans bettered his previous season-high of 29, although he also had six turnovers.

"I can score, I know that," Harden said. "I've just got to put it together. Today was pretty solid, other than the turnovers. I've just got to continue to build.

"I felt last game at Orlando, my pace was good, I was getting to the basket, I was finding my teammates, I had that burst. Tonight the same thing, I've just got to continue to compound that feeling."

Nets head coach Steve Nash praised Harden but also urged patience as has consistently been their message this season.

"He played similar tonight as he did a couple of games on this trip," Nash said during his post-game news conference. "I think we've got to be patient with him. I think he's got some yards to go before he feels this was very night or feels at his best.

"There's the fitness, the rhythm and the confidence. For all those three things to come back it does take time. He was great tonight. He's been really good the last week or so and trending in the right direction. I don’t want to get too carried away. Let's give him time to get his game back."

Brooklyn Nets superstars Kevin Durant and James Harden expressed their pleasure with the team's response after bouncing back to crush the Orlando Magic in the NBA on Wednesday.

After falling to the Chicago Bulls on Monday, the championship-chasing Nets routed the lowly Magic 123-90 on the road in Orlando midweek.

Durant posted 30 points on 11-of-12 shooting, while Harden had a triple-double of 17 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to lead the Nets to their sixth win in seven games.

"That's really what you want to do — finish quarters, finish halves off the right way," said Durant, who had his sixth 30-plus game of the season. "We got to lead and we got some momentum, we got to take advantage. I think we did that."

In his 12 games this season, Durant has been averaging 29.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, while shooting 58.5 per cent from the field and 82.9 per cent from the free-throw line. According to Stats Perform, the last player to reach all those numbers over any 12-game span was Bulls great and Hall of Famer Michael Jordan in 1988.

 

Harden added: "It's a long season. The quicker we can bounce back and get rid of it, the better our team will be, individually and as a collective unit. In Chicago, that quarter [the fourth quarter] was just one of those quarters.

"First three quarters we played pretty solid. We just wanted to come back, get that bad taste out of our mouth and perform tonight and we did an unbelievable job of that. Get some rest and we got two more games on this six-game road trip."

The Nets improved to 8-4 for the season as head coach Steve Nash said: "It was a solid bounce-back game from Chicago. I thought we got a little sloppy at the end of the half where we might have found some separation there.

"They responded in the third and a lot of good things. I thought we had moments on both ends of the floor where we were really good and really diligent with our game plans. I was happy with it and the guys did very well."

Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant hailed James Harden after his "special" performance in the 116-103 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Harden flirted with a triple-double, posting 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as the Nets celebrated their fifth consecutive victory on Sunday.

Former NBA MVP Harden scored 16 of his points in the fourth quarter to lead the championship-chasing Nets (7-3) past the Raptors (6-5) in Toronto.

"James was special there in the fourth," Durant said post-game.

Brooklyn's Blake Griffin – who put up 14 points and 11 rebounds – added: "When he's at that level, he makes us go. We, as a team, can go to a different level."

"I thought in the first half, he didn't give himself enough credit. I thought he had opportunities to attack more. I tried to implore him to go and to be aggressive. In the second half, he was excellent," said Nets head coach Steve Nash.

"This game, the Atlanta game and games he gets to the paint, he can really cause a lot of problems for the defence."

Durant had 20 points for the 10th successive game, extending his career-best streak to begin a season and Brooklyn's record for 20-point games at the start of a campaign.

He finished with 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field, making three of his six three-pointers.

"Like we said since day one, he's been unbelievable this season at both ends of the floor, rebounding, scoring, facilitating" Nash said.

Kevin Durant believes star Brooklyn Nets team-mate James Harden is in good shape and his slow start to the season is due to establishing some continuity.

Harden contributed 16 points, 11 assists and four rebounds in the Nets' 117-108 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, as he continues to build towards his best former after rehabbing a hamstring injury during the offseason.

The former NBA MVP is down on his usual scoring output – averaging 18.3 points this season, his lowest since ending his third year in the league averaging 16.8 in 2011-12 – prior to the midweek clash – compared to his career average of 25.1 points per game.

Harden got to the line once against the Hawks, while 11 of his 14 shots from the field were from three-point range.

Durant pointed to the fact Harden only joined the Nets from the Houston Rockets in January before battling injuries, playing together only 11 times last season, meaning they are still establishing continuity and cohesion.

"I think he's in good shape. I think he's playing well," Durant told ESPN after the championship-chasing Nets' third straight win. "It's a matter of us getting used to each other, figuring out line-ups and that stuff takes time.

"Continuity, we don't have a lot from last year. We're trying to build on that.

"Controlled the game from the point guard position, made shots when we needed to, it's a good win."

In contrast to Harden's form, Durant dominated with 32 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Another former MVP, Durant has scored 20-or-more points in each of his last 21 games for the Nets and has been a key reason the Nets have started 5-3 with Kyrie Irving absent and Harden regaining form.

Durant is averaging 28.3 points (most since his final season with the Oklahoma City thunder in 2015-16), a career-high 8.6 rebounds and 5.3 assists while boasting a career-best 59.2 per cent field-goal percentage. If he maintains this level, the Nets superstar would join LeBron James as the only non-bigs to average 25 points per game on 55 per cent shooting in the last 35 seasons.

"I know we're all trying to get better as the season goes on," Durant said. "I'm not looking at the rest of the team like they've got to catch up.

"It feels like we're all growing and learning and figuring each other out every single day. It's good to see that development in real time. We'll keep grinding, that's all I've been saying."

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash laughed off any concerns about Kevin Durant after being ejected in the side's 117-91 win over the Detroit Pistons only days after another undisciplined act.

Durant was ejected in the third quarter for an elbow to Kelly Olynyk, coming after he was fined $25,000 for throwing the ball into the stands during Friday's win over the Indiana Pacers.

The 33-year-old forward was fortunate to avoid being ejected for the offence against the Pacers.

"I would say they are just two random events," Nash told reporters when asked about Durant's mindset. "I wouldn't read too much into it. He's had a laugh about both of them and held his hand up."

On the incident, Durant admitted he was at fault for the elbow on Olynyk but defended the intent.

"I tried to run through the screen," Durant told reporters. "That was just the result of me trying to blow the screen up. If we're looking at the tape, it looks like I extended [raised his elbow] a little bit. I was just trying to blow the screen up, get over it, fight through, it is what it is."

The Nets went on an 11-0 run after Durant's ejection led by James Harden with five assists during the stretch.

Harden, who has started the season slow as he recovers after rehabbing his hamstring during the off-season, posted a triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, earning praise from Nash and Durant.

"He's improving in all areas," Nash said. "His conditioning, his explosiveness, his confidence, his feel, his rhythm, everything is moving forward in the right direction.

"You have a nice lead but momentum can swing fast. When we lost Kevin, it was important we continued to show impetus. I thought James was great. He led us in that stretch, being aggressive, making the right decisions."

Durant, who joked that his ejection ignited the team and crowd, added: "He understands the game and how to put people in good positions. It's not a surprise that he can take us on a run so fast."

Harden's triple-double comes after scoring a season-high 29 points against the Pacers, in a sign he is getting back to his best.

"I’m just playing. The confidence and just my rhythm and all that is coming back simultaneously together. It just feels much, much better," Harden said.

"I knew I was going to have a slow start because I wasn’t playing a lot. But I knew the work was going to catch up and ultimately I was going to get back to where I need to be. Game by game, I’m just feeling better. More confident, extra pep in my step. Just overall much better."

James Harden recorded his first triple-double of the season as the Brooklyn Nets claimed back-to-back wins for the first time this NBA campaign in a 117-91 victory over the lowly Detroit Pistons on Sunday.

Harden finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists after three quarters, while Nets team-mate Kevin Durant top-scored with 23 points but was ejected in the third quarter for shoving his elbow into Kelly Olynyk's face.

Former MVP Harden has had a slow start to 2021-22, however, he backed up his season-high 29 points against the Indiana Pacers on Friday with another impressive showing which will encourage the championship-chasing Nets (4-3) that he is getting back to his best after an injury-impacted offseason.

Harden hit four three-pointers as the superstar guard – already Brooklyn's all-time triple-double leader with 13 – joined Hall of Famer Larry Bird for second on the NBA's all-time list with 59.

 

Mitchell leads Jazz past struggling champs

Donovan Mitchell starred with 28 points, including a treble of first-quarters three-pointers as the Utah Jazz hit their first five attempts from range in a 107-95 win against slumping champions the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Bucks, who have lost three in a row.

Carmelo Anthony – who is shooting a career-high 50 per cent and 52.2 per cent from three this season – scored 23 points off the bench, while LeBron James had 15 points, seven rebounds and assists in the Los Angeles Lakers' 95-85 triumph over the Houston Rockets.

Luka Doncic led the way for the Dallas Mavericks with 23 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists in a 105-99 victory against the Sacramento Kings.

 

Dame cold in Blazers loss

All-Star Damian Lillard's shooting was wayward as the Portland Trail Blazers were downed 125-113 by the Charlotte Hornets, hitting two from 14 from three-point range for a below-standard 14-point return.

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