Kevin Durant Speaks Candidly About James Harden’s Defense

Kevin Durant James Harden Nets

Getty Brooklyn Nets stars Kevin Durant (left) and James Harden (right)

The Brooklyn Nets’ “big three” of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden combined for 90 points in Tuesday’s 124-120 win over the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Clippers.

The Nets’ superstars are now averaging 80.4 combined points per game this season, the highest points per game average by a trio since the 1976-77 season, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

As impressive as Brooklyn’s offense was versus L.A. — including a game-high 39 points on 15-of-23 shooting from Irving — their defense is what stole the show. Early on in the season, the Achilles heel of this Nets club has been its inability to defend, evidenced by its league-worst 119.9 defensive rating heading into the matchup against the Clippers. However, Steve Nash’s group showed up and showed out on Tuesday night.

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Durant Thinks Rockets ‘Compromised’ Harden’s Defense

Harden was one of the biggest surprises of the night with his crunch-time defending of two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. The eight-time All-Star historically has been criticized for his lackadaisical defense, especially during his time in Houston. KD however, has never bought into the narrative that Harden is a bad defender because when it comes to basketball, everything is situational.

“Coming in with James [Harden], his rookie year, we asked him to guard guys — the best players off the bench — so he knows exactly what he needs to do on the defensive side of the ball,” Durant told reporters over Zoom after Tuesday’s win, via SNY.

“When he got to Houston, he had to control the offense so much that it compromised him on the other end on who you want to guard and what type of defense you want to play. But he’s always been good at getting steals and playing post defense and using his strengths. He’s an all-around defender and if we ask to guard somebody, he’s going to go out there and do his job. I think that’s the underrated part of his game.”

Nets Defense Continues to Improve

While the Nets looked relaxed early in the first quarter and allowed the Clippers to get up by as many as 12 points, they eventually locked in and never took their foot off the gas.

It is possible that Sunday’s late-game collapse against the Washington Wizards was a wake-up call to Irving and the Nets, who surrendered a season-worst 149 points in the loss. If they plan of competing for championships, they cannot rely solely on their offense to put them in the win column.

“[I’m] just trying to give what’s needed on both ends of the floor,” Irving said on Wednesday night, via SNY.  “Like I said the other night, I took that personal, just not being able to guard anyone. Tonight, I gave up a few drives but I feel like defensively as a team, including my effort, we just matched it tonight.”

According to Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News, after Sunday’s loss to the Wizards, the Nets held a team meeting about giving opponents their full effort every night.

If Brooklyn is truly serious about competing for multiple titles in the years to come, this type of effort will be needed on a nightly basis, not just against elite teams. If Tuesday was any indication of the product that Brooklyn will be putting out on the floor moving forward, “scary hours” could be coming full circle very soon.

Winners of five of their last six contests, the Nets now sit at 14-9 on the year, trailing only the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference.

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