As far as debuts go, James Harden experienced one with the Brooklyn Nets that will be remembered for some time.
After getting a triple-double in his first game with the Nets, Harden has fans curious if he can produce an impressive sequel Monday night when the Milwaukee Bucks visit Brooklyn for a nationally televised contest between teams many think will meet in the Eastern Conference finals.
Harden made his debut Saturday when the Nets posted a 122-115 victory over the Orlando Magic to get their season-high third straight win. While Kevin Durant scored a season-high 42 points, it was Harden’s performance that had the NBA buzzing.
Two days after the Nets officially acquired him from Houston in a massive deal that cost them Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert, Harden started slowly and wound up with 32 points, 14 assists, and 12 rebounds in 40 minutes.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his 14 assists broke the franchise record set by Kevin Porter in 1977 for most assists in a Nets debut. Harden posted his 47th career triple-double and became the seventh player to get a triple-double in his debut with a new team.
“Man it was incredible,” Durant said. “You could see him trying to figure out the best way to play. Early on I felt like we were all overpassing, trying to make everybody comfortable. Then he just got into his mode of being aggressive to score and that opened up the whole game for all of us.”
Harden’s dynamic performance came in a game where the Nets shot 53.8 percent and hit 16 3-pointers. It also came as Kyrie Irving missed his sixth straight game due to personal reasons and health and safety protocols.
It is unclear when Irving will return but it is unlikely to occur Monday, marking the third nationally televised game he has missed. The Nets are 4-3 without Irving this season, while Durant is averaging 34.5 points in four games since returning from missing three games due to protocols.
“Hopefully, we’re close. I can’t really give you a firm update on that. We have to assess that as we go,” coach Steve Nash said of Irving. “We do want to make sure he ramps accordingly so that he’s not susceptible to unnecessary injury and protect him the best we can. But hopefully, it will be a short period of time. That is to be determined, though.”
Milwaukee is on a four-game winning streak with three of those of wins coming by 10 points or fewer. The Bucks also are 7-1 in their past eight games, a stretch where they are averaging 119 points per game.
Milwaukee heads to Brooklyn after getting a 112-109 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 31 points on 14-of-21 shooting but also missed nine of his 10 free throws.
Antetokounmpo is averaging 26.6 points so far but is shooting a career-worst 57.5 percent from the line.
Khris Middleton added 25 points and hit two clutch 3-pointers in the final two-plus minutes after Milwaukee squandered a 14-point lead.
“He’s just a great decision-maker,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Middleton. “He knows to take what the defense gives him. If he’s got a shot, he’s an incredible shot-maker, but he’s an incredible playmaker. He’s just a great finisher.”
Milwaukee is 14-3 in the past 17 meetings and has won the past eight meetings in Brooklyn.
–Field Level Media