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Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Nets, James Harden find their rhythm against shorthanded Pacers

After being physically and mentally outworked by the Heat in their last game, the Brooklyn Nets had the perfect opportunity to bounce back with a hobbled Pacers team coming to town. For much of the first half, however, it looked as if Brooklyn would suffer a catastrophic letdown.

Indiana jumped out to an early advantage and before you knew it the lead had ballooned to 16 points. It was the same old same old for Brooklyn. Early turnovers coupled with a lack of rebounding contributed to the early game woes. Not to mention, a hot offensive start from Pacers rookie Chris Duarte and a surprising offensive explosion from Torrey Craig off the bench (28 points, 11 rebounds, 4-for-7 3-pt FG).

The Nets would lock in on the defensive ends in the second and third quarters, allowing fewer than 20 points in each of the frames. The insertion of Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge into the game jolted new life into the team and completely shifted the momentum. The rebounding improved, the turnovers went down, and the Nets got to the foul line. In fact, they went to the line 41 times in total for the game, the most so far this year.

Just when it seemed the Nets were ready to break the game open Indiana made a run to start the fourth quarter and erased Brooklyn’s double-digit lead to tie the game at 90. Brooklyn would respond with an 8-0 run and would hang on for a 105-98 victory.

James Harden Shakes Off Rust

The story of the game, in a nutshell, was that James Harden was the closest thing to back we’ve seen all season. The game didn’t start off too well for Harden, however, as he looked uncomfortable throughout the first quarter tallying four turnovers.

The second quarter is where he really came alive. He scored 13 of his 21 first-half points in the second frame and did it in a plethora of ways. He scored in the mid-range, from behind the arc, but most importantly, from the foul line. The Beard shot 11 first-half free-throws against the Pacers and for reference, he had only 15 total free throw attempts on the year.

Harden would finish the night with 29 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists and would end with a 16-19 performance from the charity stripe. So, either the referees took the night off from enforcing the “new rules” or Harden may have found a way took work his game around them. Whatever the case may be, Friday night’s performance against the Pacers is a positive sign for Harden and Nets fans moving forward.

Kevin Durant as usual performed how one might expect a superstar to perform. The Slim Reaper did most of his damage in the first half where he racked up 18 of his 22 total points. Durant collected seven assists and pulled down 11 boards as well in his team-leading 37 minutes of game action.

Although he only scored four points in the second half, Durant did a solid job facilitating and finding open teammates. With Harden and LaMarcus Aldridge both carrying the offensive load, it must’ve been a relief for Durant to not have to carry the team across the finish line for once.

And speaking of LaMarcus Aldridge (21 points, eight rebounds), the ageless wonder once again breathed new life into the Nets upon his entry into the game. He was one of the main reasons why the Nets were able to erase their early 16-point deficit. Much like the Sixers game from a week ago, Aldridge really came alive in the second half.

This time, in the third quarter where he connected on a flurry of mid-range shots that propelled the Nets to their largest lead (12) of the game. With Nic Claxton still out and Blake Griffin struggling, Steve Nash will have to consider inserting Aldridge into the starting lineup.

Brooklyn will look to build on this win as they take on the young gun Detroit Pistons on Halloween night.

Other Nets Notes:

  • LaMarcus Aldridge became the 48th player in NBA history (seventh active player) to reach the 20,000-point mark
  • Paul Millsap poured in eight points, four rebounds and was a +13 in 14 minutes
  • Brooklyn shot 21-of-27 from the FT line in the first half. The most free throw attempts in a first half since 1/5/07 vs. Chicago (20-of-27)