Nets dominate 76ers, shut down ex-teammate James Harden
PHILADELPHIA — So life goes on after James Harden.
That, in essence, is what the Nets showed Thursday night. They shut down their former teammate and posted a stunning 129-100 win over what had been a surging 76ers team.
Exactly a month after forcing his way out of Brooklyn, Harden forced up a bunch of terrible shots as Kyrie Irving set the tone with some flypaper defense in the first quarter.
Harden had his worst game with the 76ers, scoring 11 points and shooting 3-for-17. He was 0-for-10 on two-point attempts. The crowd that had embraced him so fully during his first month was booing him by the second half.
"I was just doing what I could to make it tough on him," Irving said. "James is not always going to shoot like that."
The Nets were led by Kevin Durant’s 25 points and seven assists. Former 76er Seth Curry scored 24 points, shooting 10-for-14, and Irving scored 22.
The game took place on the one-month anniversary of the blockbuster deadline trade that sent Harden to the 76ers for Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond and Curry. Simmons, who has a sore back, did not play but was loudly booed by 76ers fans when he came out for pregame warmups.
Durant and Irving said the crowd’s reaction inspired them to play their best.
"We look at Ben as our brother," Durant said. "We knew this was a hostile environment . . . It’s hard to chant at Ben Simmons when you are losing by that much."
The Nets never trailed in the game and led by as many as 36 points.
The loss was the 76ers’ first with Harden on the floor. Heading into Thursday’s game, he had been nothing short of spectacular. Philadelphia had gone 5-0 with him and he was averaging 24.6 points and 12.4 assists.
Harden missed 11 of his first 12 shots. The one shot he did make — a 26-footer in the middle of the first quarter — pushed him past Reggie Miller for No. 3 on the all-time three-pointers made list with 2,561. That, however, would be the only history-worthy moment for Harden or the 76ers in the game.
MVP candidate Joel Embiid had 27 points but shot 5-for-17. The 76ers shot 32.6% against a team that is not exactly known for its defense.
The City of Brotherly Love was quick to embrace Harden, who they hope can team up with Embiid to push the team to a championship.
Just off the freeway a mile from the arena, a large billboard flashes "Thanks Ben For Bringing Us Harden.’’ According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, Harden’s 76ers jersey is the top seller in the NBA since the trade. A restaurant in Center City had a drink called the "Harden High Ball" on special Wednesday night.
It’s no surprise, then, that all the stops were pulled out Thursday night. 76ers royalty Allen Iverson and Julius Erving sat baseline and the team even had Dr. J ring the bell before the start of the game.
Both teams expected to be contenders at the start of the season, but the Nets have struggled because of Irving’s unvaccinated status, which has kept him from playing home games, and a knee injury that caused Durant to miss a month and a half.
Now, after posting back-to-back big wins in Charlotte and Philadelphia, the eighth-place Nets (34-33) are hoping for a surge.
"I think it’s great for our confidence," coach Steve Nash said. "We’ve had such a rough stretch with injuries and trying to put this thing together and build some cohesion and understanding . . . It brings everyone together a little bit and puts some belief and confidence in what we are trying to do."