James Harden finally got back to the line as the Nets get back to .500
Steve Nash and James Harden had been unhappy with the way he’d been getting treated by the refs recently, and both had made public statements requesting for fairer treatment.
NBA conspiracists will be saying that the complaining worked, because Harden made 16 of 19 free throws against the Pacers on his way to 29 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, a steal and 2 blocks with 4 turnovers. He looked a little more comfortable out there as well, shooting 5 of 11 from the field while making 3 of 6 triples.
Harden took his hits today and was able to sink his free throws, which is something the Nets will need in the absence of Kyrie Irving. He’s still a shot maker, but being aggressive and drawing fouls, even with the new rules in place, is entirely possible. He shot more free throws today than in his previous five games combined.
The Nets will be wanting to see more of this version of Harden, who suffered through a hamstring injury and was visibly hampered in the offseason. He says he didn’t get to play much ball. Kevin Durant did his part in the win, throwing in 22 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and a steal but also turned the ball over 7 times. LaMarcus Aldridge had another big game off the bench, grabbing 21 points and 8 rebounds while shooting 10 of 16 from the field in the 108-95 victory against Indiana.
The Pacers had their chances, even opening with a 38-26 lead after the first half, but the Nets answered by outscoring them 59-36 in the second and third quarters, then were able to hold on and close out the game. Rick Carlisle will be disappointed with this loss, especially after Torrey Craig had a big game off the bench with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists.
The Kardiac Kings make life hard for themselves in another close win
The Kings were 2-2 headed into their game against the Pelicans, who are still missing Zion Williamson due to a broken foot. Their two wins were both three-point victories that involved a lot of late game tension, and this one was no different.
Living up to their ‘Kardiac Kings’ nickname, Sacramento had a 107-95 lead with 1:20 left in the game but watched that evaporate to 109-106 with 19.8 seconds left in the game. Fortunately for them, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes were able to ice the game with four-straight free throws that put the game out of reach. It’s almost like the Kings refuse to win big games, and their second-half execution continues to be suspect.
Barnes has been a beast for fantasy owners this season, and put up 18 points and 12 rebounds today. Richaun Holmes, another fun pick in this year’s fantasy leagues, had 21 points and 6 rebounds on 7 of 8 shooting and made 7 of 7 free throws.
De’Aaron Fox had a statline of 23 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, but he continues to struggle from the field, shooting 9 of 21 today and 1 of 7 from three. He’s been aggressive, but has trouble getting calls in the paint. It may be time to start complaining about the refs.
Jonas Valanciunas had 24 points and 13 rebounds against the Kings, but fouled out and couldn’t do anything to help his team down the stretch. Brandon Ingram had 22 points, but it took him 22 shots to get there.
Scottie Barnes continues his strong start to his rookie year
There were questions about why the Raptors drafted Scottie Barnes this season, but he’s been proving his worth to the Raptors. He had 21 points and 9 rebounds on an efficient 9 of 14 from the field to lead the Raptors, who narrowly defeated the Orlando Magic 110-109. Toronto almost blew the game, though, as they actually led 110-98 with 2:04 left in the game.
Rookie Jalen Suggs had a good game for the Magic with 21 points on 6 of 14 shooting (4 of 8 from deep), and sophomore point guard Cole Anthony had 24 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Mo Bamba was a monster on the boards with 14 points, 18 rebounds and 5 assists.