The Nets had to work overtime and get a triple-double from James Harden that included 20 points in the fourth quarter and OT, but they finally managed to break their 17-game losing streak in San Antonio with a 124-113 victory over the Spurs on Monday night. They also tied a franchise record with their sixth straight road win.
The Nets faced a tall order against the Spurs, considering their most recent win in San Antonio was on Jan. 22, 2002.
Harden’s three-pointer gave the Nets a 102-90 lead with 4:47 left, but the Spurs cut their deficit to 108-106 on DeMar DeRozan’s layup with 40.9 seconds to play. After Harden missed a layup attempt and Kyrie Irving’s driving layup went off the back rim, the Spurs scrambled to the other end, where Dejounte Murray lost the ball, regained control and buried a 21-foot jumper at the buzzer to tie the score at 108.
"We missed two layups, the game’s over," Nets coach Steve Nash said. "The last play [of regulation] was funky too. The kid [Murray] trips on the ball and is rolling around on it. Our guys fanned out to the three-point shooters because that’s the only way we could lose, and he stands up and makes the shot."
The Nets scored the first eight points of OT. The Spurs crept back within three, but Irving hit a three-pointer at the 1:50 mark and the Nets forced two turnovers that fueled their clinching 8-0 surge.
"In overtime, we held them to five points," Nash said. "It was a great response. You miss a couple bunnies and they make a shot at the buzzer, you can fold. But we came out with confidence, made big shots, defended, rebounded and took care of business in overtime."
Harden totaled 30 points, 15 assists, 14 rebounds and zero turnovers in 44:02 in his seventh triple-double for the Nets (23-13), who committed only five turnovers. They also got 27 points and seven assists from Irving, 23 points from Bruce Brown, who shot 10-for-13, and 17 points off the bench from Nic Claxton, who shot 7-for-9. DeRozan topped the Spurs (17-13) with 22 points and Murray and Lonnie Walker added 19 each.
The Nets were coming off a sloppy home loss to Dallas, which scored 32 points off 19 turnovers to end the Nets’ eight-game winning streak. Harden blamed himself for his six turnovers.
Commenting on his turnover improvement, he said, "It has to be that way. If I’m the point guard, I have to do a really good job with my passes, making them precise and not giving away points. If we get a shot at the rim, there’s very little teams can do to stop us. That was an emphasis for myself, and it’s going to continue the rest of the season."
Harden was scoreless in the opening period, but it didn’t matter because the Nets had zero turnovers and held the Spurs to 21 points. The Nets led by as much as 12 in the second quarter but allowed the Spurs to take a brief lead in the third quarter, which ended tied at 81.
In the fourth quarter and overtime, Harden focused on turning up the heat at the offensive end, scoring his final 20 points and shooting 9-for-15.
"I wanted to be a little more aggressive in that fourth quarter," he said. "You win the quarter, you win the game. We did that for the majority of the quarter, and they made some big shots toward the end. But way to fight back [in OT] and just continue to stick with it and come away with a win."
Now it’s on to Houston, where he began the season before forcing the trade to the Nets. "I’m excited to go back to Houston, where I basically had an unbelievable career there," Harden said. "They showed me mad love and respect, and I’m just excited to play in front of those fans."
Notes & quotes: Nash offered his support for fired Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, who was a college teammate at Santa Clara University. "He’s a close friend of mine," Nash said. "He’s a heck of a young coach and an incredible human being. There would be a lot of organizations that will be very, very fortunate to have him. So disappointed for Lloyd, but with his talent, character and work ethic, he’s going to be fine."