Beaten James Harden leads Nets to beat Trail Blazers


Right up to the pregame warm-ups, James Harden was almost a DNP. Once the game started, he looked like an MVP.

With his Nets understaffed, Harden refused to let them fall short. He shook off a questionable neck injury, leading the Nets to a 116-112 victory over Portland at Moda Center.

The big three reduced to a big one, Harden had 25 points, a season with 17 assists and seven rebounds despite playing in pain and had him close to being rejected.

“Very close, actually. I couldn’t really be myself, really just show my full range of motion, a little bit of everything, ”Harden said. But there are no excuses. I tried to fight and my team needed me. I tried to go out and do my best. And hopefully that was good enough. “

Clearly. With Kyrie Irving out, Jeff Green, Joe Harris and Nic Claxton took over as the Nets pulled off a win from behind.

After giving up 41 points in the first quarter, the defense settled down as the game progressed. They held Portland to just 21 in the fourth on .318 shooting.

James Harden throws a dunk during the Nets' 116-112 win over the Trail Blazers.
James Harden throws a dunk during the Nets’ 116-112 win over the Trail Blazers.
NBAE via Getty Images

“Much better in the last three quarters,” Steve Nash said. “We fought defensively in the first quarter. I thought we were a bit hesitant. He made too many mistakes, mental mistakes. But the last three quarters, 25, 25, 21 points was very good. We keep telling them during the game that our defense is improving. Keep up with it, keep improving, and they did. They did a great job. They fought, they fought, our rebounds got better and we got the saves. “

The Nets (30-14) won for the 16th time in their last 18 games and took their team-record winning streak against Western Conference opponents to nine in a row. They moved midgame behind Philadelphia for first place in the Eastern Conference.

And they did it without Irving (family affair), Kevin Durant (hamstring), Landry Shamet (ankle) and Spencer Dinwiddie (ACL). That’s how good Harden was.

“I love playing at the basket. I love facing the challenge of finding a way to win games. In basketball, nothing is going to be perfect, ”Harden said, adding that he will play Utah if he can. “I just go out there and try to make an impact if I can play safely. [real injury]. “

The Nets used a 16-5 run to take a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter. There were three to go with the ball and 16.5 seconds left when Harden was charged with a fumble, Derrick Jones Jr. won a jump off Claxton (16 points, nine rebounds). Brooklyn fouled and Robert Covington made just one of two free throws to make it 114-112.

Green (20 points) put ice on the line.

The Nets held Damian Lillard (22 points) and CJ McCollum to 7 of 26 from deep, including 0 of 7 in the crucial final period. Now, NBA-leading Utah looms on Wednesday in the queue for a brutal back-to-back, and Detroit on Friday.

“We have played extremely well on the road, especially against teams in the Western Conference,” said Harris, who scored 17 points. “But I think over the course of today’s game we showed a level of endurance that good teams show.”

The Nets led 69-68 after a layup from Bruce Brown. But they coughed up a 9-1 streak, capped by a Jones Jr. 3 that made it 77-70 with 8:32 left in the third quarter.

The Nets still trailed 88-84 after a setback from prominent Nets killer Enes Kanter. They responded on a 16-5 streak, including the first six unanswered points.

A Blake Griffin bucket put them 96-93. And Claxton had an inbox and transition to give the Nets their biggest lead of the night at 100-93 with 10:03 left.

When the Nets saw the lead narrow to two on a Covington triple, Harden found Tyler Johnson to respond with a triple. Claxton put him back at 110-103 with 5:24 remaining. It could have been a Harden’s balloon, or a lost float; Either way, it was a seven point lead.

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