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Joe Harris, Patty Mills on court together give Nets triple-threat lineup

Patty Mills #8 of the Brooklyn Nets drives

Patty Mills #8 of the Brooklyn Nets drives to the basket during the second half of the season opener at the Fiserv Forum on October 19, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Stacy Revere

PHILADELPHIA — Throughout training camp and their season-opening loss in Milwaukee, the Nets have been struggling to find lineup combinations that work. But if there was a bright spot in the blowout loss to the Bucks, it was when three-point threats Joe Harris and Patty Mills were on the floor together.

Mills had a spectacular Nets debut, going 7-for-7 from beyond the arc for 21 points. He led them with a plus-7 rating when he was on the floor. Harris shot only 3-for-9 for the game, but he hit 3 of 5 three-pointers, had two assists on threes by Mills and was third with an even plus-minus rating.

Admittedly, it was a small sample size, but the Nets figured to go to it more often when they faced the 76ers Friday night at Wells Fargo Center.

"We love them playing together," coach Steve Nash said of Harris and Mills. "I think that’s another option that, hopefully, we’ll see more of in time. I don’t know how much we’ll lean on it early, but you can see a shooting lineup with a rolling big [man] as a facet of our game, especially if we go small.

"It’s a great lineup offensively to play with pace and to space the floor. To cause confusion with pace is important, and their spacing creates openings for other guys."

With no Kyrie Irving in the Nets’ lineup, Harris has shifted from small forward to shooting guard. Mills was the first man off the bench, replacing Harris, but when the Nets fell behind by 19 in the first quarter against the Bucks, Nash put Harris out with Mills to play catch-up.

Discussing how they fit together after the Nets' shootaround Friday morning, Harris said, "Against Milwaukee, that was one of our better scoring lineups. The pace we were playing with was creating a lot of offense. It helps when you have guys that are threats from the perimeter that are going to kind of pull guys with them and have that sort of gravity which allows our facilitators more space to operate."

When the Nets played with bigger lineups, the ball didn’t move as well and the offense stagnated. That’s going to be a major adjustment for the Nets this season because they have a deeper roster of big men available.

But Harris, who has led the NBA in three-point percentage two of the past three seasons, loves sharing the floor with another deep threat like Mills. "That is a luxury," Harris said. "That’s the reason why Patty has had the success that he has had in this league. He’s an aggressive player, but he plays the right way. He is making quick decisions when he gets the ball. With the group that we have, that is a tough combination to defend against, but that is how you’ve got to play."

In the past, the 76ers often have countered perimeter shooting by Harris by using 6-10 guard Ben Simmons, an all-NBA defensive team regular, to cover him and make it tough to get off his shots. But Simmons has been suspended by the Sixers and was not expected to play against the Nets, which figured to give them the green light from deep.

Like Harris, Mills enjoyed their time on the floor together, but he noted there also were times they were playing together with superstars James Harden and Kevin Durant, both of whom are prolific from three-point range.

"Playing with not only Joe but with James and Kevin out there at the same time, I mean, it’s a tough lineup when you consider the space we’re able to create not only for shots but then for driving lanes," Mills said. "I really loved honestly playing with other shooters out there."

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