Brooklyn Nets fans were treated to a vintage performance from James Harden on Friday night. In 38 minutes of play against the New Orleans Pelicans, Harden dropped a season-high 39 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He rounded out the effort with 12 assists and five boards as the Nets dropped the Pels, 120-112.
As good as Harden was, though, New Orleans was definitely getting hit from all sides. For his part, Kevin Durant put up a 28-8-7 line, while Joe Harris chipped in with 24 points of his own.
After the game, Harden was asked what opposing teams can possibly do to slow himself and Durant when they’re both executing at an all-world level. His response was another instant classic.
“Umm, pray,” he said after a pause.
Harden quickly noted that he was kidding, but he’s not really wrong, either. At the least, there’s an element of truth there.
Harden on Him & KD Being Unselfish
In the minutes that Harden and Durant shared the court against NOLA, the Nets were plus-17. As Harden sees it, the duo’s willingness to make plays for others is what makes the combination such a thorn in opponents’ sides.
“I mean, it’s difficult man, we’re two unselfish basketball players,” Harden said. “Obviously, Kevin is known for his scoring — efficient scorer — but he’s also a willing passer, especially when there are double-teams and things like that.”
He added: “It’s difficult to guard him and it’s difficult to guard me, especially if we got it going. We just want to get our teammates involved. And, obviously, we can score the ball, too. We’ve just got to find ways to continue to have ball movement and make sure everybody is involved.”
Although Harden spoke of including his teammates, his effort on Friday was a big one for him individually.
Through his first 11 games, the former NBA MVP was averaging just 18.3 points per contest while shooting 39.9% from the floor. Over that span, Brooklyn was 6.6 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the bench.
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On His Recent Improvement
Despite the slow start, Harden’s latest outburst feels like a sign that he’s finally turning things around. For his part, he sees some progress being made.
“I’m getting there,” Harden said, via ESPN. “It wasn’t going to take long. I mean, this is the highest [level] in the sport is the NBA, the most talented players in this world. So it’s not going to be easy for me to just come out there and do what I do. It takes a lot of hard work to be playing at a point to which you guys have seen me play at.
“When I’m not scoring 30 points, when I’m averaging 18-some points, it’s like, ‘What’s wrong with James?’ It’s pretty solid still. I’ve been playing so well and so extremely at another level to where you guys set standards for me, and I set standards for myself as well. For me, I just continue to work. I feel a lot better, and the work don’t stop.”
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