I’ve long felt that James Harden was the real key to the Nets’ title hopes. His decision to play point guard and give up the shooting guard position he played in Houston to Kyrie Irving allows Brooklyn to dominate opponents.
Harden isn’t just a great point guard, he’s also a rare example of a bonafide superstar who is also a “glue guy”. He keeps his teammates involved and has a keen understanding of where people want to get the ball.
During the Nets’ recent slump, they struggled when Kevin Durant and Irving were taking more than half of the team’s shots. There was no such display today, and with Irving out, Durant and Harden combined for 18 of the Nets’ 79 shots, or 22.7% of the total.
Durant had 14 points on 4 of 10 shooting but it didn’t matter because a total of EIGHT Brooklyn players were in double figures:
- Landry Shamet: 21 points
- James Harden: 18 points
- Nicolas Claxton: 18 points
- Jeff Green: 16 points
- Kevin Durant: 14 points
- Bruce Brown: 14 points
- Blake Griffin: 13 points
- Mike James: 12 points
The Nets also assisted 33 of their 48 made baskets – an assist rate of 68.75%. That kind of assist rate isn’t bad for a team that rolled out its 36th different starting lineup for the season. Their lead was as big as 19 in the game, and Harden only played 26 minutes.
Unselfish play can be infectious on a team, and Brooklyn’s path to the title lies in sharing the ball and trusting each other, not watching endless ‘iso then kick out’ plays by Irving or Durant.
Harden’s court vision can’t be taught, either. Look at this disgusting assist to Jeff Green.
That’s the kind of play that gets a team fired up and can be completely deflating for opponents. It’s not like Harden forgot how to score either, as evidence by a trademark stepback three that he hit today.
The Beard missed 18 games because of his hamstring, but definitely looked good today. I hope he stays healthy, because it’s a win for all basketball fans to get to watch someone like him at full strength in the playoffs.