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James Harden drops 44, hands Nets their 2nd straight loss: 108-98

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Brooklyn Nets v Houston Rockets Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images

Houston! WE have a problem. His name: James Harden.

Harden dropped 44 points en route to a 108-98 victory over the Nets, Saturday night at the Toyota Center. The Nets dropped their second straight game and fell to 16-15 on the season; 12-8 without Kyrie Irving.

The Nets, coming off a historically bad shooting night against the Knicks, shot just 40 percent from the field and hit 28 percent of their three-pointers on the night. An improvement? Yes. Enough to take down the 22-10 Rockets? No.

To add insult to injury, Spencer Dinwiddie shot just 6-of-20 from the floor, 0-for-7 from three and 5-of-11 from the free throw line to go along with five turnovers. He finished with a double double, but didn’t get the job done.

Things got ugly early. Harden scored 23 points in the first 10 minutes, as he and Russell Westbrook combined for 37 of 42 points in the first quarter, taking a 22-point lead into the second.

But, the Nets came swinging back thanks to their defensive approach on Harden. They started picking him up full court, incorporating a box-and-one, while also throwing double teams at him the second he crossed half court.

Anything to get the ball out of his hands.

He scored just two points in the quarter and the Nets chopped a 22-point deficit down to six following a 15-2 burst. It was a game of runs, though, and it ultimately ended it Houston’s favor. They led by nine entering the fourth, but the Nets carried over momentum from a 7-0 burst to end the third, storming out on a 7-0 run to start the fourth.

Following a DeAndre Jordan tip-in, the Nets owned a 90-89 lead. In that span, Theo Pinson (surprisingly) provided a nice scoring punch off the bench with 11 points in 10 minutes.

And so, the bench did their job. They handed over a one-point deficit to the starters, but the starters had no answers on either end of the floor. Houston went on a 10-2 run immediately, taking a seven-point lead late in the fourth. Brooklyn had gone over five minutes without a bucket, which ultimately did them in.

Harden dropped home the dagger three-pointer to put Houston up nine with 43 seconds. Only appropriate.

What more can you say? Teams are adjusting against Dinwiddie and Allen, both were were bound for a big night playing downhill with Clint Capela out. That leaves Joe Harris (12 points), Taurean Prince (16 points) and Garrett Temple (1-of-9 shooting) as the third, fourth and fifth options.

If you don’t watch the Nets regularly, you wouldn’t know half the guys that come off the bench. You’d know Jordan, sure. Probably Wilson Chandler, too. But after that, it’s three guys who have spent a majority of either last season or this season in the G League in Rodions Kurucs, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Theo Pinson. They all stepped up.

There’s only so much you can argue about with this Nets team. They had their opportunities, sure, but they’re totally outmatched on the floor. It’s alarming. While the boat remains afloat, the water is rising and said boat is getting heavier with a tough schedule coming up.

As we always say, if you’re the Nets you can only hope that reinforcements are on the way.

First, Caris LeVert. Then, Kyrie Irving... at some point.


At game’s end, Russell Westbrook and Taurean Prince got into a confrontation that got both of them ejected. Here’s the video.


Brian Lewis reports that the Nets did not apply for a hardship exception on Saturday, the first day they could. The exception is available to any team that has had four or more players out for a minimum of three games. The Nets have five players out that long.

Post-game, Kenny Atkinson said that he doesn’t expect big roster moves.

For another perspective, head on over to Dream Shake, our Rockets sister site on SB Nation.


Next up: Timberwolves on Monday, 8:00 PM ET.