Amidst all of the uncertainty surrounding COVID and its effect on the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets just keep on winning. Monday night, they improved to 23-9 with a 124-108 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on the road. Led by James Harden’s 39 points, it was the Nets’ sixth win in seven games and kept them ahead of the Chicago Bulls by 1.5 games for the top spot in the Eastern Conference when the league’s schedule tipped off last night.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” said Nets coach Steve Nash of his point-guard’s performance. “Against the Lakers [36 points in a 122-115 Christmas Day win] and tonight, he was just clinical. If he plays like that, we’ll be very difficult to beat.”
Questions loomed as to how the Nets would deal with their recent COVID outbreak, which had 10 players in health and safety protocols last week, among them leading scorer Kevin Durant. One which left the Nets and many other teams short-handed, forcing teams to call up G-League players and/or sign veteran free-agents who weren’t actively playing for a team. But Nets head coach Steve Nash has found a way to get the most out of whatever lineup he has put on the floor.
Returning on Christmas from health and safety protocols, Harden has performed as well as any player in the league. Scoring for himself and creating for his teammates. When he is aggressive offensively, it takes pressure off the role players such as center Nic Claxton and guard Patty Mills, who have been noteworthy in the absence of Durant and Kyrie Irving. Both Durant and Irving have cleared protocols. Nash said it could take up to another two weeks for Irving, who has yet to play in a game this season, to be ready to make his debut.
Durant and Irving will once again provide the Nets—with Harden—the bulk of the Nets’ scoring. Starting small forward Joe Harris will also be an important scoring asset when he comes back before the end regular season after having right ankle surgery in late November.
The Nets’ next three games will be at the Barclays Center starting tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers, then Saturday versus the Los Angeles Clippers and Monday hosting the Memphis Grizzlies.