James Harden and the Nets have been stifled like no one else this season by NBA rule changes designed to call for fewer fouls on non-basketball-related moves.
But head coach Steve Nash’s side came back from their last ugly start Friday night by hitting the free-throw line consistently for the first time all season. The Nets overcame a 16-point deficit in the second quarter to equal their 3-3 record with a 105-98 win over the Pacers at Barclays Center.
Harden sunk 16 of 19 from the bar and finished with the season—highest 29 points (21 in the first half) and eight assists. Kevin Durant scored 22 points with 11 rebounds and seven assists in 37 minutes for the Nets, who exchanged losses and won in their first six games.
The net surpassed its previous season high in free throw attempts (24) before the end of the second quarter and went 31 to 41 from the total streak.
“The game is called quite differently, which I think would be a fair way to put it,” Nash said. “That’s fine, I don’t necessarily have a soreness if it’s league level, but you usually know the dust settles with some of those [changes]. “
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 21 points to become the 48th player in NBA history to reach 20,000 points, while Paul Millsap added eight points in 13 minutes for the Nets.
Tori Craig led 16 of his 28 in the first half and rookie Chris Duarte added 19 for the Pacers, who played without injured guards Malcolm Brogdon and former Nate Caris Levert.
“It’s a process for us. We lose Keri [Irving] And as the guys try to make their way into shape and with 10 new guys, it’s different,” Nash said. “I think there’s a period to learn to play together and learn our best path toward scoring the ball effectively and efficiently, and it’s a process, and it’s going to take us some time.”
The Dirty Nets made five turnovers in the first quarter, including three from Harden, and trailed 38-26 after one term. The Pacers extended their lead to 46-30 early in the second quarter on a back-to-back offensive by Craig, but Millsap and Harden sparked the 23-5 streak with 14 combined free throws in the quarter.
“I think it must be difficult for the officials to change the way they rule so hard. I think it usually comes back to the middle,” Nash said. … diligently attacking early and frequently and trying to make the defense fall apart is important to our offensive success.”
The Pacers made big headway on the early 16-7 rebound building their big lead, but netted hard on the boards (50-46 overall) to continue their drive to win the fight on the glass in each of the three games they played. won this season.
Durant also continues to score heavier minutes than last season, at nearly 36 minutes per game after averaging 33 minutes last season in his first year of hock surgery.
“It’s hard not to use Kevin Durant,” Nash said. “There’s an option to use it, and then there’s the fact that the ball found Kevin Durant because it’s very difficult to defend.
“So not all of us,” let’s go to Kevin. Let’s go to Kevin. Sometimes it’s just that it’s good, that he gets himself into the game even without pressing that button over and over again. So part of it is how talented and uncanny his nature is.”
Durant endured a rare moment of frustration in the third quarter, as he faced a technical foul to throw the ball into the stands. But Durant dropped two more free throws and jumped 20 feet and Aldridge buried four outside shots during a 17-7 boom to close out the third with an 85-74 nets lead in the final quarter.
The Pacers opened the fourth inning in the 16-5 round, however, and were tied up in consecutive batches by TJ McConnell and a free throw by Domantas Sabonis midway through the period. But Harden dropped in a primary campaign and then added two more free throws with 4:33 remaining to fire a 13-2 run to net the win.