The Brooklyn Nets already had their hands full coming into Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers were 17-21 coming into the game against the Nets and are clawing for a playoff spot in the East.
Brooklyn was also down two of their stars. Kevin Durant missed his 13th consecutive game with a hamstring strain and Kyrie Irving sat due to a sore groin that he suffered during Monday’s matchup with the New York Knicks.
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James Harden Sent Strong Message To Nets’ Reserves
Despite being down two of their stars Nets’ Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden was not using that as an excuse. This team has battled injuries all year and despite the fact, are still tied for first place in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia 76ers.
“It’s been like that all year. Guys in and out of lineups. I just kept preaching to the guys before the game that it’s the next man up and whoever has an opportunity to touch that floor be ready to go,” Harden told reporters after the win per SNY.
“Know your assignments, know what you’re supposed to be doing, and stay locked in detail-wise. We don’t make excuses like guys are in and out of lineups. Whoever is in the lineup, whoever is suiting up, be ready to go, be ready to perform, and do whatever it takes to help the team get the win. That’s the kind of mindset we’ve been in you know so nothing phases us at this point.”
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Nic Claxton Had a Huge Night
One of the Nets’ reserves that came up huge in the win was big man Nic Claxton who had 11 points, 8 rebounds, and two blocked shots on the night.
“It shows the coaching staff believes in me, but at the end of the day, it just starts with me believing in myself,” Claxton said via the New York Post.
“A lot of people think we traded away all our depth, but I’ve been around, and people didn’t know that. So it feels good to be out there, playing and doing my thing.”
Harden clearly lit a fire in the 21-year-old’s belly that led to one of his best performances since his return. Claxton acknowledged the impact that Harden has had on the Nets after the win.
“I’ve definitely never played with anybody like [Harden], He’s definitely one-of-one,” Claxton said.
Harden joined Vince Carter as the only other Nets player to have a 40-point triple-double as he finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds, and 15 assists. Harden championed the Nets comeback with a monster fourteen-point fourth quarter, which is becoming a norm for the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player.
Still, Nets’ head coach Steve Nash won’t take these types of performances from Harden for granted.
“I’ll never take it for granted, but we’re getting used to it. That’s a quarter he had while they were double-teaming him. Remarkable performance, without Ky. He made some huge plays down the stretch, but overall it was just such demands on James to deliver,” Nash said to reporters via the New York Post.
The Nets hope to have Kyrie back when the Nets take on the Orlando Magic on Friday.