Even with the NBA’s second-leading scorer hanging outside, the Brooklyn Nets matched a franchise record Friday for its most points in a fighting game, dropping 147 on the Oklahoma City Thunder at a 22-point win.
“We are getting there. … We are gradually inching forward on the two ends of the ground,” trainer Steve Nash said. “We struggled defensively at times, but we are becoming stronger with our game plan defensively. Offensively, you’re starting to find a little more flow. You are visiting James [Harden] capable to deal with the game like this and manipulate the defense.”
They shot 57% from the field, hit 19 3-pointers and had 33 team assists.
With Kevin Durant sitting within a resting strategy as he proceeds to return from his Achilles injury, Kyrie Irving and Harden took the reins, blending for 50 points — 25 apiece.
“We are catching a rhythm, obviously, offensively,” Harden said. “But defensively as well. We are learning our strengths and our weakness and things we can get better at.”
The Nets’ offensive explosion has been steadily growing, together with 10 of their past 11 games comprising at least 110 points. But they have also been, to put it kindly, fair about the defensive end.
“There’s a closeness growing, on the two ends of the ground. “It is not our forte or strong suit, but we’ve got to be clean with our game plan and speaking and participating in our activities.”
Harden and Irving spent many areas of the game orchestrating Royal as Nash staggered their moments. But there were also long stretches in which they played off one another, together with Harden doing his usual isolation drive-and-kick item, while Irving flashed his finishing ability from the paint.
“I’m always gonna say I won’t take any day for granted. This does not happen often in history in which you have this group together at this time,” Irving said. “Some of those men were newcomers on their respective teams this past year; some of those men are MVP candidates. And to get all of the collective talent and not get the most of it, we’d be doing ourselves a disservice. So we only need to continue to drive each other and hold each other accountable.”
Harden credited the overall communication enhancing among the team, with assignments, coverages and adjustments being called out obviously throughout the game. Irving and Harden were at the front of their scoring, but there was impressive balance to the game as well, with nine players complete finishing in double figures.
“It’s very satisfying anytime you get a win, but anytime the entire team performs well and you do some wonderful things as a collective group, it definitely stands from the remainder,” Irving said.
The Nets have won four straight and are 6-2 considering making the trade for Harden. There have been some rough spots occasionally, with Harden going extended stretches less involved in the crime, or Irving’s performance ticking, but the chemistry was building, Nash explained, and is something that he only hopes to enhance.
“Offensively, I think guys are getting a sense and a rhythm for one another, how guys like to playwith, where they enjoy the ball, how they prefer to move, play and cut off each other,” he explained.
Harden said the Nets are keeping your eye on the process, noting that it’s only going to get harder as the season progresses. Since the games get bigger and the season gets smaller, there will be a spotlight on the Nets’ chemistry and how they execute.
“We’re gonna be contested nightly; we’re going to get everyone’s best shot,” Irving said,”but what we are doing now is just finding the continuity to use the strengths we have.”