Matt York/Associated Press
The short-handed Nets extended their winning streak to four with a dramatic 128-124 victory over the Phoenix Suns in Tuesday’s showdown at Phoenix Suns Arena. James Harden hit a go-ahead three with 31.4 seconds remaining and led the way for the visitors, who improved to 18-12 on the season by overcoming a 21-point halftime deficit.
Impressive showings from Chris Paul and Devin Booker were not enough to prevent the Suns’ six-game winning streak from coming to an end as they fell to 17-10 on the campaign.
Notable Player Stats
- James Harden, G, BKN: 38 PTS, 11 AST, 7 REB
- Joe Harris, F, BKN: 22 PTS, 4 REB
- Jeff Green, F, BKN: 18 PTS, 8 REB, 3 AST
- Tyler Johnson, G, BKN: 17 PTS, 5 REB, 5-of-8 3PT
- Chris Paul, G, PHO: 29 PTS, 7 AST, 4 REB, 4-of-8 3PT
- Devin Booker, G, PHO: 22 PTS, 7 AST
- Deandre Ayton, C, PHO: 16 PTS, 9 REB
James Harden Leads Stunning Comeback for Nets
While Durant’s absence was expected, the timing of Irving being sidelined was less than ideal.
After all, the guards appeared in lockstep during Monday’s win over the Sacramento Kings with Irving dropping 40 points and Harden notching a triple-double of 29 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds. That it came after Irving told Mid American Herald’s Malika Andrews he would be the shooting guard and Harden would be the point guard was all the more notable.
Rather than having an opportunity to build on their chemistry with set roles, Harden was left without the other two pieces of the dynamic trio and figured to shoulder the playmaking responsibilities.
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[email protected] getting us off to a strong start in the 4th 💪 https://t.co/D6rp4YkyYG
The Suns knew that too and picked him up full court in an effort to make it more difficult for the Nets to get into their offense.
It was effective in the early going, but Harden quickly settled in with multiple three-pointers, aggressive drives through double-teams, a soft touch around the rim and the willingness to facilitate when he found himself in too much traffic.
That helped Brooklyn cut a 21-point halftime deficit to 12 heading to the fourth quarter, but it wouldn’t have completed the comeback without contributions throughout the roster.
Joe Harris spearheaded the effort early in the fourth with Harden on the bench, Tyler Johnson caught fire from deep, Jeff Green aggressively sought out his shot and even Landry Shamet provided an important spark off the bench.
That set the stage for Harden to take over in crunch time, as he assisted or scored on 18 of Brooklyn’s 20 points in the final five minutes. It was a reminder that he can carry a team by himself, which is all the more concerning for the rest of the league since the Nets have two other players who can do just that.
Devin Booker’s Start, Chris Paul’s Finish Not Enough for Suns
Brooklyn isn’t the only team with an impressive trio of playmakers, as Phoenix is rolling behind Paul, Booker and Deandre Ayton even with this loss.
It has been Booker’s turn to shine of late, as the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week entered play with four straight games of 27 or more points. He reached the 30-point mark three times in that span and wasted no time setting the tone Tuesday with 16 points in the first quarter.
The shooting guard poured in the points inside the arc by working into openings, connecting on mid-range looks and finishing at the rim and then showed off his versatility with a lob to Ayton when multiple defenders collapsed on his penetration.
However, he went cold the rest of the game and scored a mere six points.
Fortunately for the Suns, Paul was there to take over for stretches. Even when Brooklyn made runs to set up the tight finish, the point guard appeared to be in full control as he glided through the defense and hit multiple mid-range shots to keep the visitors at arm’s length.
As if that weren’t impressive enough, he drilled three triples in the final five minutes while matching Harden almost play-for-play as he scored 17 points in the fourth. However, the Suns went to Booker down two in the final seconds, and he missed a potential game-tying shot that would have forced overtime.
While it was easy to blame that decision, Phoenix’s defense also collapsed down the stretch and gave up 74 points in the second half.
The Nets are at the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, while the Suns travel to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.