Whether it was a change in how games are being officiated this season, allowing defenders to be more physical and not giving offensive players calls when they initiate contact, or a long recovery time from a lingering hamstring injury, Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden wasn’t playing at at his normal high level during the early part of the Nets’ schedule.
Kevin Durant had been carrying the team on the offensive end, leading the league in scoring. But Harden found his rhythm coming into November and now is looking like the nine-time All-Star whom the Nets expect to help them make a run for a title. Between Nov. 12-19, Harden led the Nets in scoring four out of five games, putting up 39, 24, 27 and 36 points.
The one game Harden didn’t top the team in scoring—Durant had 33 points against their former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 14—Harden contributed a double-double, dropping 16 points and adding 13 assists.
“I just try to go out there and be aggressive,” said Harden after the Nets’ 120-96 road victory over the Orlando Magic last Friday, recording a stat line of 17 points, 11 assist with 11 rebounds. “Guys were open. I tried to push the pace a little bit, get into the teeth of the defense.”
Harden had a game-high 14 assists in the Nets’ 117-112 win over the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Monday night, helping the Nets improve to 13-5, which was the best record in the Eastern Conference when NBA play began on Tuesday night. They were one game ahead of the 12-6 Chicago Bulls.
The 32-year-old Harden was averaging 20.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists heading into last night’s (Wednesday) game versus the Boston Celtics on the road. His assists mark put him second in the league behind the Phoenix Suns Chris Paul (10.3).
The Nets will host the Suns Saturday at the Barclays Center and will play the Knicks in Brooklyn on Tuesday.