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Nets starting to click as season-long road trip begins

James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets celebrates a

James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets celebrates a three-point shot during the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Hawks with teammate Kevin Durant at Barclays Center on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Nets’ season began on the rocky road of inconsistency as they tried blending 10 new faces into a lineup still missing Kyrie Irving because he hasn’t complied with the New York City vaccine mandate.

But remaining stars Kevin Durant and James Harden have geared up their games and carried the Nets (5-3) to three straight wins before heading out on a season-high, six-game road trip that begins against the Pistons on Friday night in Detroit.

"You definitely get comfortable being at home for so long, so now it is even tougher to go out on the road," Durant said after a 12-day homestand. "We look forward to it. It is a good test to see where we are as a group. It was very important for us to spend these two weeks at home, which is getting reacquainted with our city, our routines, each other."

After splitting their opening road trip with a loss at NBA champion Milwaukee and a win at Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia, the Nets lost their home opener to the Hornets, defeated the Wizards and then got beat up by the Heat on their own floor. But they began to come together in consecutive wins over the Pacers, Pistons and Hawks.

Harden was especially slow out of the gate, but his play in the three-game winning streak has been exceptional. Asked to describe what has changed since the 2-3 start, Harden said, "I think it’s just a feel for each other. The first couple games, training camp, preseason, nobody’s really playing hard. So games count, they matter now. We get to figure out who’s great at what and how they can execute and what things guys aren’t great at.

"We’re finding that rhythm. We’re finding each other. This is getting a lot easier. Our second unit is playing extremely well."

Harden rattled off the names of Patty Mills, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, DeAndre’ Bembry and Jevon Carter, a group that has made a defensive impact off the bench along with the scoring of Aldridge and Mills.

In their 117-108 victory over the Hawks on Wednesday, the Nets had 34 assists on 43 made baskets, underlining how well they shared the ball. They hit a season-high 22 three-pointers in 48 attempts (45.8%), they had six players score in double figures and prevailed despite being outrebounded 52-42. They got to the foul line for just 12 attempts and were outscored in the paint 48-28.

Durant said it was good to see so many threes drop, but more important, he is encouraged by the growing chemistry on a Nets team with so many new faces.

"I just think we needed some experience, just seeing what lineups work, what player, what sets work with each lineup," Durant said. "You need to play games to understand that. We knew it was going to be a process. I am glad we were able to figure some stuff out the last few games and get back on the right page. We know it is going to be even tougher on the road, but we’ve just got to keep grinding."

New York Sports