Tagged in: james harden

Kyrie Irving relishes ‘winning time’ after coming up big late for Nets in bounce-back win

With a once double-digit lead whittled down to just one point in the final quarter of the Brooklyn Nets’ Saturday night game versus the Miami Heat, Kyrie Irving took over. He splashed in clutch 3-pointers, had driving layups and made key free throws to help lift the Nets to a 128-124 triumph.

Down the stretch, Irving said his mentality was: “It’s winning time.”

“I’ve always said that throughout my career,” Irving said. “When it gets down to that point, obviously you just want to buckle down on the defensive end, get stops, and I felt like we did that.”

The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Nets, who dropped a pair of games at the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this week. Irving’s 18 fourth-quarter points were the most he has scored in a final quarter since joining Brooklyn.

“We had two losses where we had to learn a lot very quickly,” Irving said. “And we just moved on to the next night. And I feel like we gave the effort in spurts, and obviously we want to have more consistency in that — and that’ll take time. I’m happy with the effort tonight.”

Irving finished with 28 points. Kevin Durant had a team-high 31-points for the Nets, while Joe Harris added 23 points, including seven 3s. James Harden added 12 points and 11 assists.

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Bam Adebayo finished with a career-high 41 points, five rebounds and nine assists for the Heat.

“It was about time Bam had 40 in terms of getting a lot of those moves that he’s been working on in the offseason,” Irving said. “Just watching him grow since high school, be able to take over at this point for kind of an undermanned Miami team, it’s good to see.”

The Nets came into Saturday’s game with the goal of improving defensively. While they couldn’t fully contain Adebayo, there were glimmers of improvement.

After being outrebounded 50-29 on Friday in Cleveland, the Nets buckled down in defensive rebounding versus the Heat. Brooklyn had an 81.3% defensive rebound rate on Saturday — its third highest in a game this season — as compared to just 58.1% the night before.

Nets coach Steve Nash continued to experiment with lineups involving the team’s three All-Stars. Harden played 11 minutes with both Durant and Irving on the bench. And while Harden’s 12 points were his fewest since January 2020, his five consecutive games with double-digit assists have already tied for the fourth longest such streak in Nets history.

“It feels good not to have to score so much to give ourselves a chance to win a game,” Harden said. “I can go out there and just be a playmaker and shoot my shot when it’s available and still get guys involved — and still have a chance to win the game.”

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Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving returns, scores 37 points in double-overtime loss to Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving returned after a two-week hiatus on Wednesday, scoring 37 points in the Brooklyn Nets’ 147-135 double-overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In his first match with Kevin Durant and James Harden, Irving played 48 minutes and made 15 of 28 field goal attempts. Durant concluded with 38 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, while Harden had 21 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.

Before the game, coach Steve Nash stated he was “curious” to get a look at the Nets’ All-Star trio in a game together, but was trying to avoid putting too much weight on a single game.

“We will have good nights, we will have great nights, but it is how we galvanize this group together and how we sacrifice and compromise for the greater good,” Irving said.

“That still remains to be seen, obviously one game is out the way, but I am excited for what’s to come.” Patience may be an important virtue for this Brooklyn team. The Nets had visible kinks to work through in the trio’s debut.

After building a double-digit lead in the first quarter, the Cavaliers went on a 17-0 run late in the first quarter stretching into the second and built a nine-point advantage.

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“We seemed a little lost at times, which is natural because we haven’t played together. So there’s a little indecision,” Nash said after the loss. “We started the game turning the ball over, we had seven or eight in the first quarter. We cleaned it up and got ourselves back in the game, but obviously we have to defend better.”

He added: “We’re just getting a feel for each other and this is a process that’s gonna take the entire year.”

At the half, the Cavaliers held a two-point edge over the Nets.

Harden didn’t score his first points until the final minute of the half, when Larry Nance Jr. fouled him, sending Harden to the line where he sank two free throws.

Coming into Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Wednesday, Harden had made a shot in the first half in 325 consecutive games, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. Over the last 10 seasons, the only players with longer streaks are LeBron James and Durant.

Brooklyn’s fragmented play bled into the second half. While Harden buried a three early in the third quarter — his first field goal of the game — to briefly give the Nets the lead, Cleveland quickly surged back.

The Nets struggled on the defensive end. In the third quarter alone, 13 of the Cavs’ 22 field goal attempts were uncontested. Cleveland went 11-for-13 on those open looks, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

In the fourth, Brooklyn’s fortunes started to turn. The Nets ended the quarter on a 21-9 run and were able to force overtime, with the score knotted at 113. Irving, Durant and Harden combined for 28 of the Nets’ 35 fourth-quarter points.

It wasn’t enough, however, as Cavs guard Collin Sexton led all scorers with 42, including 15 points in the second overtime to put Brooklyn away.

Wednesday marked Irving’s first game since Dec. 5. He had missed the Nets’ past seven games — five for personal reasons and two while conditioning.

During Irving’s time away for personal reasons, the league fined him for violating health and safety protocols and attending what appeared to be a family birthday party. He also lost over $800,000 in salary for the two games he missed while in quarantine.

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Rockets rally past Spurs 109-105 in 1st game without Harden

Houston’s first game without James Harden went better than anyone could have expected.

Christian Wood had 27 points and 15 rebounds, and the Rockets rallied to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 109-105 on Thursday night in their first game since trading away the franchise cornerstone.

“It was fun. It was really cool stuff,” Houston’s first-year coach Stephen Silas said.

Sterling Brown, who took Harden’s spot in the starting lineup, had 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes. Jae’Sean Tate added 13 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.

San Antonio forward Keldon Johnson had a career-high 29 points and Lonnie Walker IV added 16 points while tying a career-high with four 3-pointers. Houston sent Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in a four-team blockbuster trade on Wednesday. 

Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum and Rodions Kurucs, who the Rockets acquired along with numerous draft picks and draft swaps for Harden, are not with the team yet.

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It was Houston’s first match without Harden since 2012, when Oklahoma City traded its young guard to the Rockets primarily due to salary cap constraints.

Harden remained publicly quiet through months of rumors about his unhappiness with the Rockets, but he broke that silence following a second blowout loss to the Lakers on Tuesday. He bluntly said the Rockets were “just not good enough” and that he did not believe the situation could be fixed.

Houston showed otherwise, at least in their first chance to do so.

“We had a team meeting after that last game against the Lakers and we drew the line there,” Tate said. “Everybody has so much to prove.”

The Rockets were also without John Wall and Eric Gordon due to injuries. The upheaval led to more minutes for the remaining roster, and they took advantage of it.

“Spirit is something I believe a lot in and talk a lot about,” Silas said. “We had spirit tonight.”

Seven players scored at least nine points, with Mason Jones scoring a career-high nine points.

The Rockets staged a 15-2 run to lead 105-101 with 1:46 left.

“It’s got nothing to do with defense (or) offense,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the late swoon. “It has to do with between the ears and being ready to play. And we had four or five guys who were out to lunch.”

Brown had a wild, overhead shot land on the top of the backboard for an out-of-bounds call with 9.5 seconds remaining. San Antonio veteran DeMar DeRozan missed a 15-footer with 0.4 seconds left, and the Spurs fouled P.J. Tucker, who made two free throws to seal it.

DeRozan had 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his return from a two-game absence due to personal reasons.

The teams meet again Saturday at the AT&T Center in the finale of a two-game set in San Antonio.

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Harden returns to Rockets, scores 12 in preseason debut

James Harden was back in a Houston uniform.

It’s still uncertain how many more times that’ll happen.

The three-time defending NBA scoring champion made his preseason debut with the Rockets on Tuesday night, after practicing only one time with his team following a late arrival to training camp amid incessant trade speculation. Harden scored 12 points in 21 minutes and the Rockets beat the San Antonio Spurs 112-98.

Harden also had four assists, three rebounds and two steals. He checked out for the final time with 5:02 left in the third quarter, having missed his final four shots.

John Wall and Ben McLemore each had 15 points for the Rockets, who got 11 points apiece from Eric Gordon and Jae’Sean Tate and 11 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins. Lonnie Walker IV scored 17 for the Spurs, who got 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds from Dejounte Murray. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 12, while Rudy Gay and Devin Vassell each added 11 for San Antonio.

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Harden seemed anything but disinterested to start his first live game action of the season.

He stood immediately to the right of new Rockets coach Stephen Silas in the pregame huddle, his eyes staring intently at whatever Silas was sketching up before taking the floor.

His first shot was a made straightaway 3-pointer, his second attempt led to him getting fouled from beyond the arc and making three free throws.

So, his shooting touch was there, at least at the outset — as was his touch on passes. He connected with Danuel House on a three-quarter-court chest pass to set up a dunk late in the opening quarter, timing clearly not much of an issue after a couple months off.

Harden went 3 for 10 from the field, including 2 for 6 from 3-point range. He also went 4 for 5 at the free-throw line.

The Rockets lost guard Chris Clemons with 9:58 left, after he was taken off the court in a wheelchair. Clemons made a 3-pointer for an 87-74 Houston lead, and after retreating to the defensive end for the ensuing possession, appeared to take a bad step and immediately started reaching for his right Achilles area.

There was no immediate diagnosis of Clemons’ injury. There are four matches Wednesday, followed by seven on Thursday, eight on Friday and then three in the preseason finales Saturday. The regular season starts on Dec. 22.

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Mike D’Antoni tells Houston Rockets he won’t return as coach

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni has informed the franchise that he’s becoming a coaching free agent and won’t return to the Rockets next campaign, D’Antoni told ESPN on Sunday.

“It’s with tremendous sadness and gratitude that my wife Laurel and I announce that our incredible journey in Houston has ended for now and that we’ll be moving to a new chapter,” D’Antoni told ESPN in a statement.

D’Antoni, whose contract expired with the end of Houston’s season in the Western Conference semifinals on Saturday, turned down extension offers prior to the season. He will be considered among a group of candidates for the Philadelphia 76ers coaching opening, sources tell ESPN.

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D’Antoni was 217-102 in his four campaigns as Rockets coach, advancing once to the Western Conference finals and three times to the conference semifinals.

D’Antoni, a two-time NBA Coach of the Year, led the Rockets to the highest winning percentage in the Western Conference over the last four years (.682), trailing only the Toronto Raptors (.695) in the entire league.

Only the Golden State Warriors (46), Boston Celtics (33), and Raptors (31) have more playoff triumphs than the Rockets (28) in D’Antoni’s four-year run in Houston.

The Athletic reported Sunday morning D’Antoni had not “completely ruled out the possibility of a return.” None of these answers or reports were definitive and the reports all season were that D’Antoni wasn’t likely to stay in Houston.

For the Rockets, it will be difficult to find a replacement that is on par with the impact that Mike D’Antoni provides. He has been key in James Harden emerging as a superstar and that’s why the former MVP expressed he wanted D’Antoni to be brought back.

It’s early in the process but the Rockets have been linked to Jeff Van Gundy as a potential candidate. He has been in the broadcast booth for years as he last coached in the NBA in 2007 when he was in Houston. There should be plenty of other candidates to enter the mix, too.

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Lakers run past Rockets for 3-1 West semifinals lead

Anthony Davis was the biggest player on the floor, and the Houston Rockets had no answers.

Davis had 29 points and 12 rebounds, LeBron James concluded one assist shy of a triple-double and the Los Angeles Lakers topped the Rockets 110-100 on Thursday night to take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.

James had 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, who outrebounded the Rockets 52-26. Alex Caruso scored 16 points and Rajon Rondo had 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers, who held on after frittering away most of a big second-half lead.

“Turnovers,” Davis stated. “We had too many turnovers.”

That was one of the few complaints the Lakers could make after Game 4. Russell Westbrook had 25 points and James Harden had 21 for the Rockets, who got 19 from Eric Gordon and 14 from Austin Rivers.

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The Lakers were up by 23 midway through the fourth, well on their way to a blowout victory.

That’s when Houston’s offense woke up.

Westbrook made a corner 3 with 3:01 left, Harden got a steal and a pair of free throws on the next possession, and the Rockets put together a 18-2 run to get within 103-96. The Lakers turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions during that stretch, unable to get anything going.

Smartly, though, on the biggest possession of the night as the clock ticked inside the two-minute mark, they went to Davis. Gordon, who stands about half-a-foot shorter than Davis, had no opportunity as the Laker All-Star scored in the lane to push the lead back out to nine and buy the Lakers a bit of breathing room.

Caruso’s 3-pointer off a pass from James with 34.6 seconds left made it 108-100, and the Lakers escaped.

The Lakers won Game 3 by holding Houston to 38 points in the second half — and set themselves up to win Game 4 by clamping down again, this time in the first half. It was 57-41 Lakers at the break, meaning Houston had scored 79 points in its last 48 minutes of basketball.

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