James Harden and Kevin Durant proved why Nets head coach Steve Nash shouldn’t be concerned about playing them back-to-back nights or their minutes — at least not for now.
Harden had 27 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists and Durant had 23 points as the Nets defeated the Cavaliers, 109-99, at the Barclays Center Wednesday evening. If either one of them felt tired from their 117-99 home loss to the Warriors Tuesday, it certainly didn’t show.
Harden and Durant each played 37 minutes Wednesday and they both have played all 16 games this year. Harden said he and Durant are ready to take on a larger role in minutes with the team facing injuries and missing players as the Nets can't really afford them taking days off at this point.
"I think if I don't play or Kevin don't play it's not like we're already down numbers," Harden said. "So we just got to, like I continue to keep saying, we just got to keep fighting, man. Find ways to come away with wins, find ways to keep improving on both ends of the ball and you know it's a long season."
Joe Harris missed his second-straight game with a left ankle sprain, Paul Millsap was out for personal reasons and Kyrie Irving continues to be away from the team.
Nash certainly doesn’t want to burn out his two dynamic playmakers, but he trusts their judgments about their bodies and still wants the team to build strong on-court chemistry.
"I think that we definitely are going to look for our spots to protect them," Nash said. "We just have to be very strategic. We’re a new team trying to find itself and trying to form that identity and those guys are super-competitive so they want to play. It’s a tricky balance."
LaMarcus Aldridge added 24 points, including 16 points in the second half, and seven rebounds and Patty Mills had 21 points, including 6-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc.
The Nets improved to 11-5 and Cleveland fell to 9-7. It was Brooklyn’s third win over a team currently with a winning record this season.
Harden and Durant looked strong from the opening whistle. Durant scored 13 of his 23 points in the first quarter. Durant had 19 points in the first half on 7-for-10 shooting and shot 9 of 16 for the game. Harden had 16 points in the first half.
Durant and Harden combined to score 15 of the Nets’ final 17 points in the first half as Brooklyn took a 62-41 lead into intermission. The 21-point lead was Brooklyn’s biggest halftime advantage of the season, with its previous high coming with a 59-42 lead over Washington on October 25.
But Cleveland didn’t fade away in the second half. The Cavaliers outscored the Nets by 32-19 in the third quarter to cut Brooklyn’s lead to 81-73 after the period. Cleveland also cut Brooklyn’s lead to within seven points (96-89) with 4:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"A lot of ups and downs," Harden said. "Second half we just had a meltdown. And they capitalized, they made shots. We got fortunate they missed a lot of open shots in the first half. Second half they made a lot of them so good thing is we come away with the win and we just got to continue to keep improving. No excuses."
Notes & quotes: Durant passed his coach for 26th place on the NBA’s all-time three-pointers with his first triple Wednesday. He hit two three-pointers in the win and has 1,687 in his career. Nash had 1,685 career three-pointers.