Tagged in: steve nash

Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving shows early rust, finishes with 22 in debut vs. Pacers

Kyrie Irving provided the emotional lift the Brooklyn Nets were hoping to see in his season debut Wednesday night in a 129-121 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Not only did Irving show flashes of his old form, posting 22 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals in 32 minutes, he offered a reminder of just how dangerous the Nets can be when he shares the floor with Kevin Durant and James Harden.

With Irving hitting several crucial baskets down the stretch, the Nets erased what was a 19-point Pacers lead on their way to the victory.

After it was over, Irving admitted having some nerves in his return but said he was just happy to be on the floor after missing the first three months of the year.

“Just a lot of gratitude just to be present tonight with everyone,” Irving said. “Just go out there and have fun doing what we love to do. It was a not-so-good first half for us, and we came in the locker room and we knew that in order to build this identity that we want to have later in the season we got to start now.”

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Irving, who isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19, making him ineligible to play in home matches because of New York City’s vaccine mandate, wasn’t on the floor to start the season because the Nets decided before the season that they didn’t want to have a part-time player. However, after a COVID-19 outbreak decimated the Nets’ roster, the decision was made to let Irving to rejoin the team as a player who could participate only in road games.

Before getting up from the podium, Irvin smiled when asked if that meant getting vaccinated was still a possibility.

“Oh come on, man,” Irving said. “Don’t hang onto me.”

With Irving back on the court Wednesday night, the Nets’ offense looked dynamic at times again with so many All-Stars on the floor.

Durant, who scored a game-high 39 points, said it was “incredible” to have Irving back.

Irving showed a little early rust in the first quarter, going 0-for-3 from the field with two turnovers, but he settled in and started to find a rhythm.

Harden said he knows it’s going to take a little more time for the Nets to come together with Irving back in the fold, but the sense of belief Irving brought back to the floor was palpable.

“It’s special,” Harden said. “It felt like he’s been playing all season. He looked comfortable as usual, his pace, his rhythm. It looked like Kyrie.”

Several players and coaches echoed that sentiment after watching Irving go back to work. Irving’s next game will be next Monday in Portland, in a game that was originally scheduled to be played on Dec. 23 but had to be postponed because the Nets were dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Nets coach Steve Nash stated he is hopeful he can keep ramping up Irving’s minutes as the Nets look to maintain the momentum they found in the fourth quarter, when Irving had 10 points and helped the Nets outscore the Pacers 35-20.

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Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash says ‘good chance’ Kevin Durant exits COVID-19 protocol this week

While Kevin Durant could be rejoining the Brooklyn Nets later this week when they are back in New York, Steve Nash says Kyrie Irving will need between a week and two weeks to ramp up before making his season debut.

Durant and Irving stay in health and safety protocols and are not with the team in Los Angeles, where the Nets play the Clippers on Monday night. But the team returns to New York after the match, and the Nets could have Durant and center LaMarcus Aldridge out of protocols and back with the team when they play Philadelphia on Thursday.

“I think there’s a good chance Kevin will be,” Nash stated after the team’s shootaround about whether Durant will be back with the team when it gets back home. “With Kyrie, I’m not so sure, but it’s coming. He’s already been [in protocols since Dec. 18]. … He’s got to be getting close.”

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Aldridge entered health and safety protocols on Dec. 14 along with five other Nets. The other five — James Harden, James Johnson, Bruce Brown, DeAndre’ Bembry and Jevon Carter — were all cleared and played in the Nets’ victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas.

Durant and Irving went into protocols on Dec. 18. The day before, the Nets announced Irving would be returning to the team to play on a part-time basis. Because of New York City’s vaccine mandate, Irving is not allowed to play in home games at Barclays Center or at Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks.

Since the point guard has not practiced on a regular basis with the team since early October in training camp, Nash says it will take Irving time to ramp up. The Nets have yet to see Irving on a court since deciding to bring him back into the fold because he went into health and safety protocols.

“It’s hard to say, but I would say probably somewhere between a week and two weeks,” Nash said of the ramp-up. “He’s obviously been isolating so that kind of puts another layer to the ramp-up. It’s not like he’s been working out so probably I’d imagine it’s going to be closer to two weeks once he comes out of protocols. We’ll just have to see how it goes, though, because we have to evaluate him from a physical and performance standpoint and a basketball standpoint as well.”

After concluding this two-game trip in Los Angeles, the Nets only have two road games in their following nine games after Monday’s game at the Clippers. They play at Indiana on Jan. 5 and then at Chicago on Jan. 12.

If Irving doesn’t play in those games, the Nets could have him at Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 17 for the start of a four-game road swing.

Harden stated on Saturday that having Irving back, even on a part-time basis, “will be huge for us.”

“Hopefully we can get him back full-time,” center Nic Claxton said. “But it’s definitely gonna be scary hours [with Irving back]. I think he’s gonna break the game for us, and make things easier for everybody on the court. And I’m just, I’m ready to get my brother back.”

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Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash concerned with Kevin Durant’s minutes, ‘not safe or sustainable’

Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash stated he’s concerned about the amount of minutes superstar forward Kevin Durant is playing this season, and that the team is going to have to monitor him closely as it navigates the next several matches with a short-handed roster ravaged by COVID-19.

“It’s a really important topic,” Nash said before Brooklyn beat the Philadelphia 76ers 114-105 at Barclays Center Thursday night for another short-handed victory.

“I don’t know we can continue to lean on him the way we have. It doesn’t feel right.

“I know he’s enjoying it. I know he’s enjoying playing at the rate he’s playing at and trying to bring his teammates along with him and all the responsibility that he’s accepted and crushed, basically. It’s just been incredible. But, at the same time, it’s not safe or sustainable to lean on him like that. There’s gonna be a lot of consideration and we’ll have to figure out ways to give him breaks.”

Durant is averaging 36.9 minutes per game this season — fourth-most in the NBA, behind Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, his teammate OG Anunoby and Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.

That is the most minutes per game Durant has averaged in eight years, since he averaged 38.5 minutes per night during the 2013-14 season, when he scored 32 points per game and claimed his lone Most Valuable Player award.

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The 33-year-old played a season-high 48 minutes in Tuesday night’s overtime victory versus the Raptors here at Barclays Center, finishing with a 34-point triple-double in a 131-129 Brooklyn win — the fifth time in 26 games this season that he’s eclipsed the 40-minute mark. He did so after being listed as questionable to play in Tuesday’s game earlier in the day with right ankle soreness. He followed that up by playing 39 minutes in Thursday night’s game, scoring 34 points.

“I just try to do what’s required, man,” said Durant, when asked about his minutes load after Tuesday’s win. “I mean, I want to be out there. I want to play. I want to win. So, it starts there.

“Whatever I got to do to accomplish those three things, I’m going to do.”

For the Nets, though, the challenge is not just winning today — it’s winning several months from now, when Brooklyn hopes to be making a deep playoff run as it challenges for its first NBA championship.

That will require getting Durant through the season healthy in the wake of missing the entire 2019-20 season due to an Achilles tear suffered in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, and playing just 35 regular-season games last season because of recurring hamstring issues.

Durant has only missed two games so far this season.

But with Brooklyn down seven players due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols for a minimum of another week — plus remaining without Joe Harris, who is recovering from ankle surgery, and Kyrie Irving, who has not played yet this season after failing to fulfill New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements, Nash said he needs to balance keeping the Nets afloat during the period they are short-handed without putting too much strain on Durant’s body.

While Nash said veteran guard Langston Galloway, whom the Nets signed with a hardship waiver Wednesday, was available for Thursday’s game — giving Brooklyn nine available players — Nash admitted that having just enough players available to keep playing is a double-edged sword.

“The question is we’re above the threshold, so to speak, which is positive,” Nash said, referring to the NBA’s minimum requirement of having eight healthy players available to play in a game. “At the same time, we’re barely above the threshold. So what toll does that take on our players?

“Is it better to be over the threshold and to not be playing until you have a healthy roster or is it better to have enough to play but to be short-handed and the burden and the toll that takes on these guys and knowing that you’re going to have guys coming back who haven’t been able to practice or play basketball? So it is definitely tricky to navigate.”

As for Brooklyn’s opponent Thursday, 76ers coach Doc Rivers stated Georges Niang — who tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday — said no one else had tested positive yet. But after going through their own outbreak earlier this season, one that cost them both superstar center Joel Embiid and second-leading scorer Tobias Harris, Rivers said the team held a call Wednesday to try to tighten up their own protocols amid COVID-19 spikes across the country — let alone in professional sports.

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Kyrie Irving returns to practice as coach Steve Nash acknowledges Brooklyn Nets will face games without him

Kyrie Irving returned to practice Sunday, but the Brooklyn Nets sound like a team coming to grips with the realization that its starting point guard will not play in home matches for the foreseeable future.

While the situation around Irving’s availability for home games due to New York City’s COVID-19 protocols could change, Nets coach Steve Nash stated he knows the team will have to play games this season without Irving.

“We recognize he’s not playing in home games,” Nash told reporters after Irving practiced with the team in Brooklyn for the first time this preseason.

“We are going to have to for sure play without him this year. So it just depends on when, where and how much.” New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate requires a person to have proof of at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot to enter indoor gyms — counting Barclays Center, the home of the Nets, and Madison Square Garden, the home of the Knicks.

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But on Friday, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps that Irving would be allowed to practice at the team’s HSS Training Center after the city determined that the Nets’ practice facility in Brooklyn is a “private office building” as opposed to an indoor gym.

“We are just starting to navigate this,” Nash told reporters Sunday. “A new rule comes in Friday and here we are. We are trying to look at the big picture. The near term, right now I am not sure we have as many answers.”

“I think right now we assume he’s not going to be available for home games, but anything can change,” Nash later added. “Who’s to say? The city ordinances could change. Anything could change. Right now we are just trying to remain flexible, open-minded and figure it out as we go because information is coming in by like the half-day here. … We found out Friday he can come back in the building. Things are shifting. No one’s been through this before, and we are just trying to figure it out as we go.”

The city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate prevented Irving from taking part in the team’s media day at Barclays Center on Sept. 27.

Irving ended up participating via a videoconference call from his home. He practiced with the team for a week during the Nets’ training camp in San Diego.

Upon returning to Brooklyn, Irving missed four consecutive practices and a home preseason match Friday. But on the same day as the preseason game, the city made its determination on the HSS Training Center. Irving joined his teammates Saturday at an outdoor team event at Brooklyn Bridge Park and then practiced Sunday at the team’s facility.

Nash stated Irving will not play on Monday in Philadelphia, where the Nets play the 76ers in a preseason game. The Nets finish their preseason with a home game versus the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday. If Irving does not get a vaccination shot before then, he will go the entire preseason without playing in an exhibition match since the Nets held him and several other veterans out of the preseason opener against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 3.

Nash said Irving was cleared to participate in everything in practice Sunday. “It’s not something we, I have experienced before,” power forward Blake Griffin said of what the Nets will do if Irving cannot play in home games. “Whatever he decides, whatever the team decides, whatever agreement we come to or whatever happens, we are just going to support him. When he is here, we can use him. He’s amazing. I’m not even going to waste time trying to wrap my head around something that I don’t know the situation yet. We will adjust and act accordingly.”

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James Harden (hamstring) struggles in 5-point return, but Brooklyn Nets win Game 5

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden was held to five points in his return to the starting lineup Tuesday night, but the Nets went on to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-108 in Game 5 in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Brooklyn leads the series 3-2.

The decision to let Harden to play was made after he tested his right hamstring on the court before tipoff. He played 37 minutes and shot 1-for-10 from the field, missing all eight of his 3-point attempts, and went scoreless in the first half. He added six rebounds, eight assists and four turnovers.

It was the first time Harden was available to play in a game since June 5, when he injured his hamstring in the first minute of Game 1 of the series. Since then, he has been dealing with what the team has called hamstring tightness.

“I’m not sure the level of risk,” head coach Steve Nash said before the game. “I think it is James’ decision. He wants to play. Ultimately, he wants to play. He’s been pushing.”

Harden participated in the Nets’ shootaround Tuesday morning with improvement in his hamstring, and that prompted the team to upgrade his status from doubtful to questionable for Game 5, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Nets are preparing to be without guard Kyrie Irving (right ankle sprain) for the rest of the series, sources said. The team hasn’t officially ruled Irving out beyond Game 5.

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Nash stated Sunday that the team would try to approach the injuries as isolated incidents and not let Irving’s ankle sprain rush Harden back to the floor before his hamstring is fully healed.

Still, Nash admitted Monday that Irving’s injury was a “driving” factor for Harden in pushing to return.

“He wants to play,” Nash said. “He wants to win a championship. He loves the playoffs and the ability to play this time of year. So, I think it’s been really difficult for him on how much he cares, how much time he puts in, how much effort he’s put in to get to this position.”

Irving was injured midway through the second quarter of Sunday’s Game 4 in Milwaukee when he landed awkwardly on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot after making a layup over Jrue Holiday. Antetokounmpo crashed the paint in what was an attempt to help Holiday, who was the primary defender.

Irving remained on the ground for several minutes as Nash and the team’s athletic trainers attended to him. Eventually, Irving walked to the locker room without assistance but was limping. He left the arena in a walking boot and on crutches. An MRI on Monday confirmed Irving’s ankle sprain.

The Nets have battled injuries all campaign.

The Big Three of Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant played just eight games together in the regular season and six games together in the playoffs — including the game in which Harden was injured after just 43 seconds.

Harden missed 18 games in the regular season with a hamstring strain, and before that he missed two with hamstring tightness.

During warm-ups Tuesday, Harden was moving well as he shot, did cutting motions and threw passes to Jeff Green. Harden had protective kinesiology tape stretched over his right hamstring.

“We have to support him the best way we can,” Nash said of Harden, “and be an aid for him to figure this out, but it’s a tricky situation — but one that we are willing to go down with James. He’s just been unbelievable for us this year, and we want to support him.”

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Bucks rally in 4th to beat Nets 124-118, clinch playoff spot

Milwaukee’s late-season schedule has given the Bucks plenty of chances to measure themselves against the two teams they’re chasing in the Eastern Conference standings.

The results have been encouraging.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points and the Bucks used a fourth-quarter rally to defeat the Brooklyn Nets for the second time in three days, winning 124-118 on Tuesday night. This mini-sweep comes less than two weeks after the Bucks won two consecutive games from East-leading Philadelphia.

“I’m happy we were able to put on a show for our fans and able to build good habits in those games, but that’s all,” said Antetokounmpo, who also had 12 rebounds.

“They don’t mean nothing. Nobody’s going to remember these games when we’re in the playoffs.”

Brooklyn (43-23) lost its third straight to fall 1½ games behind Philadelphia (44-21) Milwaukee (41-24) clinched a fifth straight playoff appearance, but is third in the East, three behind Philadelphia and 1½ behind Brooklyn.

The Bucks are chasing their first NBA title since 1971.

They posted the NBA’s best regular-season record in 2018-19 and 2019-20, but lost in the Eastern Conference finals two seasons ago and in the second round last year.

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That’s why they’re not making too much about their regular-season success versus the teams ahead of them.

After all, the Nets didn’t have James Harden for either of their two losses in Milwaukee. Philadelphia didn’t have All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons playing together in any of its matchups with Milwaukee.

If nothing else, these last two weeks have given the Bucks a confidence boost.

“It’s important to be playing well going down the stretch here,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Milwaukee blew a 10-point lead in the second half and trailed 103-97 with 10 minutes left, but it responded with an 18-1 run.

Brooklyn cut the margin to four with 1:02 left, but Antetokounmpo sank a pair of free throws and Jrue Holiday made a steal in the final minute to seal the triumph. Holiday had 23 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

“They got a nice groove going in the fourth, made shots, made plays,” said Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, who had 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists. “You’ve got to give them credit.”

Kyrie Irving scored 38 points for the Nets, who got outrebounded 55-39.

Milwaukee’s Donte DiVincenzo had a career-high 15 rebounds to go along with 10 points. Khris Middleton had 23 points and seven rebounds.

“They were overall more physical than us on both ends of the floor,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. The Bucks’ fourth-quarter comeback followed their 117-114 Sunday afternoon victory over the Nets, also in Milwaukee.

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Durant, Nets beat Timberwolves 127-97 in rescheduled game

The show in Minnesota went on, the day after raw emotion from a fatal police shooting of a local Black man was too strong to play.

Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets made quick work of the Timberwolves, even if focus was harder to come by than usual.

Durant scored 31 points on 11-for-15 shooting in his most productive performance in 2 1/2 months, as the Brooklyn Nets blew out the Minnesota Timberwolves 127-97 on Tuesday afternoon.

“I felt like my wind and legs are getting up under me, each and every minute I’m playing,” stated Durant, who missed 23 matches with a strained hamstring until returning last week.

The game was rescheduled from the previous night, out of sensitivity to the community following the traffic-stop death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright.

Players from both teams wore black warmup shirts that read, “With liberty and justice for all,” with the last two words in all-caps for extra emphasis, and a moment of silence was held before tip-off.

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“All we can do is be here for each other physically, emotionally try to comprehend what guys are going through,” Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell said, adding: “I encourage everybody to go out there and do what you can physically do to make things better, not just speak about it.”

Anthony Edwards had 27 points and eight rebounds for the Timberwolves, who played without Karl-Anthony Towns on the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death from COVID-19 complications. Towns decided to sit out and spend the time with his family.

Joe Harris pitched in 23 points for the Nets, who had 31 assists on 46 made baskets.

Missing James Harden (strained hamstring), Kyrie Irving (personal reasons) and LaMarcus Aldridge (non-COVID-19 illness), the Nets were in command from the jump and ahead by 23 points before the midpoint of the second quarter. They built their lead as big as 45 points early in the fourth quarter.

With Harden, Irving and Aldridge all out, Nash put Chris Chiozza and Nicolas Claxton in the starting lineup for the first time, the 17th and 18th different players to appear in the first five for the Nets in just 54 games this season. They have used 32 different combinations.

“I’m really proud of the guys. We’ve had a lot thrown at us this year,” coach Steve Nash said.

Durant played 27 minutes and had his highest points total since Jan. 31. “We’re trying to find that balance, and at least he had a good game and got some minutes on his legs,” Nash said.

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James Harden’s return for Brooklyn Nets short-lived due to ongoing hamstring tightness

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden played just four minutes before he was ruled out for the remainder of Monday night’s 114-112 victory versus the New York Knicks because of right hamstring tightness.

Harden’s brief return came after he missed the Nets’ past two games while dealing with the same tightness.

Before the match, Brooklyn coach Steve Nash stated Harden would not be on a minutes restriction and the team would monitor him throughout the night. “We definitely don’t want to wear him out,” Nash said before tipoff. “So we’ll try our best, which is very difficult to do sometimes. We’ll try to limit his minutes if we have the opportunity.”

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Nash reiterated both pregame and postgame that the imaging on Harden’s hamstring did not reveal structural damage, so the team looked to him and its training staff to decide when he felt well enough to play.

“So who knows — this may linger, it may be all behind us like we thought it was before the game,” Nash said. “But it’s just one of those things where the scan is clean, the strength tests are clean but he feels something, so we’re going to err on the side of caution.”

The Nets were already without Blake Griffin (injury maintenance), Kevin Durant (hamstring strain), Tyler Johnson (knee soreness) and Landry Shamet (ankle sprain).

Nash said that he does not anticipate playing Griffin in both halves of any remaining back-to-back games.

Harden, one of the frontrunners for league MVP, entered Monday’s game averaging 26.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 11.2 assists for the Nets.

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Kevin Durant unlikely to return for Brooklyn Nets this week, coach Steve Nash says

Kevin Durant will not play versus the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, and Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash stated he doubts Durant will play this week as he continues to rehab from a hamstring strain that has sidelined him for a month and a half.

Nash stated Sunday that Durant “looks good” and “is progressing” but “still needs to be monitored and still needs to get a certain amount of markers under his belt” before he returns to game action.

Durant last played on Feb. 13 versus the Golden State Warriors. Durant stayed back during Brooklyn’s three-game road trip to Portland, Utah and Detroit last week while he worked through what Nash deemed a “critical last part” of his rehabilitation.

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The Nets were also without Kyrie Irving and Landry Shamet on that trip. Irving, who was not with the team while he attended to a family matter, will play on Monday. Shamet, who has been treating a right ankle sprain, has been ruled out against the Timberwolves.

Nash stated he doesn’t think that Shamet will return to the lineup this week, either.

After the Nets host the Timberwolves, they face Houston on Wednesday and the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday — all of which Durant and Shamet are likely to miss, according to Nash.

Nash reiterated that he doesn’t believe Shamet’s ankle will be a “long-term thing,” while Durant still has a few more tests to pass in his hamstring recovery.

Initially, the Nets ruled out Durant for two matches, but further imaging revealed a more severe strain than the team initially thought.

Nash has said that they also have the luxury of not rushing Durant back because the team has continued to win. The Nets, Nash said, are prioritizing Durant’s long-term health in what they hope will be a deep playoff run.

“There’s still steps for him to take,” Nash said of Durant, “although he looks great, is progressing and will definitely be back with us. It’s just, I don’t think this week is likely.”

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James Harden has triple-double in Houston return, Nets roll

The No. 13 on his jersey, James Harden won so many matches for the Houston Rockets.

On Wednesday night in the first meeting with his former team, No. 13 had a triple-double for the Brooklyn Nets to send the reeling Rockets to their 13th consecutive loss.

“A lot of mixed emotions from the fans but I knew that was going to happen,” Harden said. “I just wanted to come out here and give them a show.”

He did that with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in the 132-114 triumph. The Nets set a franchise record with their seventh straight road victory. They’ve won 10 of their last 11 overall.

Harden has meshed well with his new team and the Nets are 17-7 since the trade. “So far, so good,” he said. “It’s everything that I signed up for. Top to bottom it’s been great.”

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It’s the longest skid for the Rockets, who had just eight players available because of injuries, since they dropped 15 in a row in 2001. They’ve had a tough time since Harden was traded Jan. 14 and haven’t won since Feb. 4.

The Rockets used a 10-0 run, with five points from John Wall, to cut the lead to eight with about eight minutes left in the fourth. But the Nets scored the next eight points, with two 3s from Harden, to extend it to 113-97 midway through the quarter.

It’s the eighth triple-double for Harden this season and his second straight after he had 30 points, 14 rebounds and 15 assists without a turnover in an overtime triumph at San Antonio on Monday night. He didn’t play as clean of a game Wednesday when he had eight turnovers.

Harden got a mixed reception from the crowd.

Many of the 3,615 fans booed when he was introduced before the game and more boos came the first few times he touched the ball.

He stated it was a “little weird” being on the visitor’s side but denied having any extra emotions.

“Once I get on that court I’m just trying to win,” he said. “So that was kind of my feeling. I wasn’t trying to show off. I wasn’t trying to do anything out of the ordinary that I haven’t been doing. Just playing my brand of basketball.”

The Rockets played a video showcasing some of the countless highlights of his eight seasons in Houston during a timeout in the first quarter. There were more cheers than boos as it played. Harden stepped out of the huddle and raised his arms before placing his hands in a praying position to acknowledge the fans as it ended.

“You could tell it meant something to him,” coach Steve Nash said. “This place is special to James. Houston means a lot to him … so I know it was a big game for him. I was proud of the way he handled it.”

Wall had a season-high 36 points, and Victor Oladipo also set his season high with 33.

Houston coach Stephen Silas stated the strong play of those two stars is an encouraging sign amid this difficult stretch.

“It lets us know that when we get back and we’re healthy and we’re whole and we are in a position where we have enough guys to compete we’re going to be just fine,” he said.

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