AFP/Los Angeles, United States
Kevin Durant scored a season-high 42 points as the James Harden-era began for the Brooklyn Nets with a triple double and a 122-115 NBA victory over the struggling Orlando Magic on Saturday.
The 31-year-old Harden finished with 32 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds in his debut with the Nets, who must wait to show off their Big Three of Harden, Durant and Kyrie Irving due to Irving’s absence for personal reasons.
Harden scored his first points as a Net by nailing two free throws with six seconds left in the first quarter as the Nets took a 29-26 lead.
“Early on, I felt like we all were overpassing, trying to make everybody comfortable,” Durant said, “Then he just got into his mode of being aggressive to score and that opened up the whole game for others.”
Harden, who became the seventh player in history to record a triple double in their debut for a new club and the first to do so with a 30-plus scoring effort, slammed the door on his way out of Houston after a four-team trade deal was completed.
But he was clearly pleased with his new club on Saturday, which sees him reunited with former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Durant.
“It felt really good. Guys got after it,” Harden said. “I’ve got to stop turning the basketball over. That comes with chemistry. That comes with practice.
“Getting a win in my first game here, it feels pretty good. We just have to keep it going.”
As for his historic statistics — “I’m just happy we came away with a win,” he said. “Those stats don’t mean anything.”
Despite winning the NBA scoring crown three times, Harden earned a reputation as an underachiever in the playoffs with the Rockets.
His tenure in Houston came to a head after a one-sided loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday when Harden blasted the team’s talent level. Even before that, Harden had demanded out of Houston after failing to deliver them a championship despite some impressive individual performances and being named the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player.
Two days later after saying the Rockets were “just not good enough”, Harden was on his way to Brooklyn after being acquired in a blockbuster four-team trade that saw Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and a number of draft picks go to Houston.
Harden was averaging 24.8 points, 10.4 assists, and 5.1 rebounds in eight games with the Rockets this season.
Harden, who waited until late in the first quarter Saturday to score his first Nets points, looks forward to Irving’s return.
“The sooner we can be on the court together, it’s going to be scary hours,” Harden said.
Irving missed his sixth straight game after being fined $50,000 by the NBA for violating health and safety protocols. He was seen on social media during his absence without a mask at an indoor family party.
He joined Harden as the second NBA player fined for violating the league’s Covid-19 rules.
Four-time scoring champ Durant shot 16 of 26 from the floor against the Magic and was a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line.
Nikola Vucevic finished with a team-high 34 points and 10 rebounds to lead Orlando, who have lost five straight.
Spurs rip Rockets
DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points and the San Antonio Spurs rolled over the Rockets 103-91 in the second game between the teams over a three-day span.
At Tampa, Norman Powell scored 24 points and Chris Boucher, Kyle Lowry and Fred Van Fleet converted eight straight free throws in the final two minutes as the Toronto Raptors beat Charlotte 116-113.
Boucher came off the bench to score 20 points and nine rebounds.
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