The depleted San Antonio Spurs gave the Brooklyn Nets all they could handle on Monday. Despite missing a number of key players, they managed to overcome a 10-point deficit in the final 2:12 of regulation to force overtime. They may have lost the game there, but in all likelihood, would have won it in regulation were it not for the heroics of James Harden. The 2018 MVP put on an absolute clinic against San Antonio, scoring 30 points, dishing out 15 assists and grabbing 14 rebounds in the victory.
The performance, statistically speaking, was historic. Harden became the first player known to ever post a 30-15-10 line without committing a single turnover, though individual turnovers have only been tracked since the 1977-78 season. That all-around dominance has been a staple of Harden’s since joining the Nets. While his scoring has decreased from the absurd levels he reached in Houston, he has averaged an NBA-best 11.1 assists per game since joining the Nets to go along with 8.4 rebounds per contest.
“We have to implement the phrase ‘get used to it,'” Irving said of Harden’s brilliance since joining the Nets.
“When James is being James, it makes our job a lot easier,” Irving said. “And so we got to get used to somebody special like that, things like that in terms of breaking records. So, I can’t wait to be right alongside of him, my name in Nets history — and all the guys on our team where we’re just breaking records as a team, and then individually we’re stacking up with some of the best to ever play.”
That approach has paid significant dividends for a Nets team that hasn’t been at full strength in quite some time. Kevin Durant has missed 11 of Brooklyn’s last 12 games, but despite a rocky start, the Nets have now won nine of their past 10 with Harden at the helm. He’s also notched seven triple-doubles since joining Brooklyn.
It has put Harden, almost unthinkably, back into the MVP conversation. Known primarily for his exploits in isolation, Harden has adjusted to suit the needs of his new team by sacrificing his own scoring for the sake of his teammates. The Nets are thriving as a result, and when Durant returns, they will be able to make a run at the title of best offense in NBA history.