The pregame chat was low-key however impactful. The third-quarter dunk was hellacious and — possibly? — unprecedented.
The in-between was classic James Harden, with the Nets guard in takeover mode from the beginning of Brooklyn’s 112-110 win over the New York Knicks at Barclays Middle on Tuesday evening.
“Simply being aggressive,” stated Harden. “Being aggressive. That’s the one factor each evening is my aggressiveness. I’ve simply obtained to proceed that.”
Harden completed with 34 factors, 10 rebounds, eight assists, and three steals because the Nets received for the thirteenth time of their final 16 video games to enhance to 15-6 atop the Jap Convention.
Final week, Harden — one in all solely seven gamers in NBA historical past to have led the league in each scoring and assists — was requested in regards to the problem of balancing the 2 and acknowledged he was sorting by means of it.
Previous to Tuesday evening’s recreation, TNT analyst Reggie Miller related with Harden and informed him, principally, to simply be himself. That’s been ok for seven All-NBA choices and the 2017-18 MVP award.
“He obtained me going for certain,” stated Harden. ‘However yeah, it was simply final confidence, the best-player-in-the-league sort of mindset. That was motivation earlier than the sport, one thing I wanted.”
It was just like what Nets head coach Steve Nash stated in his pregame media session.
“I all the time need James to assault,” stated Nash. “I would like him to assault and put stress on the protection. If it ends in a shot extra occasions than not, nice. If it ends in a move, extra occasions than not that’s nice too. For me, I don’t essentially need to pigeonhole him into, you need to rating, you need to playmake. I would like him to be aggressive, be himself, and make performs.”
Harden did that from the beginning, scoring 15 of Brooklyn’s first 21 factors within the recreation’s first eight minutes. On the 8:22 mark of the primary quarter, Harden hit the two,five hundredth 3-pointer of his profession, turning into simply the fourth participant in NBA historical past to take action. After making two extra in opposition to the Knicks, he’s 58 away from tying Miller for third place on the record.
The remainder of the primary half was a Harden spotlight reel. He scored 28 factors on 8-of-12 capturing, together with 3-of-5 from 3-point vary, and in attacking the rim, discovered his approach to the foul line to make 9-of-10 free throws.
“I simply went on the market, and whether or not it was attending to the basket or getting my shot or discovering the open man, simply doing it and never occupied with it and the results of that appeared good,” stated Harden. “It felt good. There have been a pair turnovers, simply forcing passes, however apart from that, it was straight get downhill and shoot your shot. Mainly, that was it.”
Trailing 61-60 at halftime, the Nets opened up the second half with a 14-0 run. The basket that made it 12-0 to begin the half got here with Harden roaring down an open lane to catch and throw down a Patty Mills 3-point miss, adopted by a roar and a shoulder shimmy because the Knicks went for a time-out.
“Which may have been my first one in all my profession … so I needed to let it out,” stated Harden of the putback dunk. “It wasn’t that nice after I appeared on the spotlight, however it felt nice. That’s all that issues.”
After dominating the scoring within the early going, Harden had six of his eight assists and 9 of his 10 rebounds within the second half.
“He began the sport off scoring the basketball, and it simply opens the sport up for everyone, and tonight was a kind of nights for him, and you then noticed him within the second half begin getting the remainder of the group going,” stated Kevin Durant. “So he put collectively an incredible recreation tonight, performed 39 minutes, 11-of-20 is environment friendly and 5 turnovers however eight assists, making an attempt to make stuff occur. He was nice tonight.”