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‘Scary Hours’ have begun! James Harden, Kevin Durant combine for 64 as Nets beat Bucks, 125-123

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Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The “Scary Hours” have begun!

In a highly competitive battle between two Eastern Conference powerhouses, the Nets held on and beat the Bucks, 125-123, at Barclays Center. Once again, it was Kevin Durant and James Harden providing highlight after highlight and a combined 64 points. For the second straight game, two out of three ain’t bad.

With the win, the Nets extend their winning streak to a season-best four games and a 9-6 record. With the win, the Nets moved within a half-game for the best record in the East. Milwaukee is now 9-5. It was the Nets first win over the Bucks at Barclays since 2015. The Nets did beat the Bucks in the “bubble.”

“For us to be in that situation first of all against a high-quality opponent, I thought we played a little sloppy but they had that resolve,” Nash said following the win. “They built that resolve in those scenarios. You can’t cheat that collective experience and respond. We had a couple of turnovers, made a couple of defensive errors down the stretch, layups, dunks, and having said that - we found a way to stay in the game. That is really important just have that connectivity down the stretch and we need to go through that together. These are important nights for us win or lose.

“We are not having any parades. We got a lot of work to do. We got to clean up a lot at both ends of the floor. This is kind of a new group, no training camp, a new look offensively, and definitely a new look defensively. We got tons of work to do. We are grateful for the victory tonight. The lessons we can learn and the process we are undertaking with games like this against high-quality but we got to keep building.”

Still, Harden tweeted out his enthusiasm post-game...

The game featured back-and-forth action — with 10 lead changes in the fourth quarter alone, but at the end, it fell to Durant and Harden and they showed why at the end of games as well as at the end of the season, stars matter and superstars matter more.

Durant’s 3-pointer with 36.3 seconds left provided the dagger and Bruce Brown’s sterling defense on Kris Middleton foreclosed the Bucks’ attempt at a buzzer-beater. It was easily the best basketball game of the Nets season and one of, if not the best games anywhere in the league. As Harden predicted after his first game two nights ago, the Nets are likely to provide some “scary hours” for their NBA opponents.

Durant, once again, showcased greatness in the win, finishing with 30 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in 36 minutes. The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week extended the Nets franchise-record streak of games with 25+ points to 10 games. Durant is tied with Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards for the league lead of consecutive games with 25+ points.

“We’re still trying to find our way and we’ve still got room to improve, but it’s a solid start,” Durant said following the win.

Harden, who has yet to put in a full practice with the Nets, put his facilitating and defense on display, balancing both with his offensive firepower. “The Beard” scored 34 points to go along with 12 assists and six rebounds in 41 minutes in the win. Harden became the first Net to score 30+ points in each of his first two games.

“That is who I am. The good thing about me is I'm not a one-dimensional player,” Harden said following the win. “I can impact the game in many many ways.”

“We’ve all got to be ready to shoot knowing the attention that they're going to get,” said Jeff Green of his superstar teammates. “It makes their job easier when we’re making shots.

“I got to do a better job of controlling the game and not turning the basketball over,” Harden said. “I think we are one of the best teams when we actually get a shot up at the rim so gotta do a better job of that but that just comes with time, spacing, and knowing the offense.”

DeAndre Jordan, playing 38 minutes, finished with his first double-double of the season at 12 points and 12 rebounds to go along with three assists. Jordan did a good job defending Giannis Antetokounmpo while providing great veteran leadership to Reggie Perry, who got 10 minutes in a back-up role.

Jeff Green served as a solid x-factor in the win as he finished with a season-high 14 points, six rebounds, and one assist while shooting 5-of-6 overall and 4-of-5 from deep in 37 minutes as a starter. His four three-pointers made marked a season-high. Uncle Jeff has reached double-figures in each of his last three games.

As a team, the Nets finished the win shooting 54.8 percent overall and 48.4 percent from deep. Brooklyn turned over the ball 17 times but outrebounded Milwaukee 49-41.

As for Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo recorded 34 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists in 40 minutes of play, but got bounced around by Jordan and Durant. He attempted six 3-pointers but made only two. Jrue Holiday went for 22 points, six assists, and four rebounds in 37 minutes of play. The Bucks finished the loss shooting 43.8 percent overall and a rough 29.7 percent from deep.

Scary hours indeed with Nash hopeful Kyrie Irving will return Wednesday.

“As far as Kai, I am excited to get him back,” Nash said following the win. “He’s an incredible basketball player and to have him back in the building tomorrow will be exciting. We will start to integrate him, figure out how to make this whole thing work, and it is a great puzzle for us to put together and for us to be the most efficient we can be.”

The Film Room

The Bucks were throwing DUDES at James Harden –– Jrue Holiday, namely. Milwaukee’s gameplan was to press “The Beard” full court, throw two his way at screens, and genuinely make his life miserable; it was evident.

In lineups with just Harden (and no Kevin Durant), it becomes crucial for the guys around James were ready to score. Brooklyn ran a series of pick-and-pops with Joe Harris to close out the half to attempt and peel Jrue Holiday’s vise-grip off Harden.

After setting the screen, it’s on Joe Harris to fly into the open space, which he does here with some expertise, floating to that open wing after D.J. Augustin and Donte DiVincenzo trap hard.

Assets for the bench? We got some.

The Nets of course were without Kyrie Irving and have three roster spots to fill as well. Bobby Marks laid out just what the Nets have in terms of assets if and when they want to improve their bench.

And the Nets could wind up with four openings if the league and players union approve a proposal to add a third two-way to compensate for players going into health and safety protocols.

James Harden and Kevin Durant reflect on playing together

Back during the start of Barack Obama’s second term, 2012, in a year when many thought the world was *gasps* coming to end (leading to some truly horrific movies), James Harden and Kevin Durant were teammates in the prairies and valleys of Oklahoma City (that’s the topography in OKC, right?).

Since that time, a lot has changed. Kevin Durant became a Golden State Warrior, and by circumstance of living in the Bay, an entrepreneur. James Harden became, no big deal, a historically great one-on-one player who practically ensured 50 wins in the gruesomely difficult Western Conference.

And now, they’ve joined together in Brooklyn for a reunion for the ages. How have they grown since their last time playing together? Well, here’s James Harden on the duo’s evolution.

“We were young in Oklahoma City. We’re grown men now. We really know the game of basketball now. We’re not those young guys who just wanna shoot and dunk all day. We know the games, we know spots. We’re more advanced. And then for me? When I sit back, I know what type of player Kevin Durant is; he’s one of the best players to ever touch a basketball. God-given, 7-foot. Can basically do everything.

“For me, it’s not tryna to compete with that. It’s allowing Kevin to be the best Kevin he can be. And then I’m going to make him better and then make my teammates better. Because at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”

Kevin Durant offered a different, yet similar answer.

“IQ. We were young players, wide-eyed. Didn’t know what the league was about. Experiencing things for the first time together. Playoffs. Game 6s. Late games in the playoffs. All of those situations, we experienced them for the first time. Now if we’re in those situations again, we’ll know how to handle ourselves...

“As far as knowing the game inside and out, knowing what we need our teammates to do, and knowing what our coaches expect of us, I think we can handle a little better now.”

Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince on James Harden trade: ‘You have to do it’

James Harden is an all-world, generational talent that you do everything in your power to add, don’t get me wrong. But let’s not understate the loss of Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen to Cleveland; in one swift move, 19.2 combined points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.1 made three-pointers on 35.1% shooting vanished from Brooklyn’s rotation.

And yet, even knowing this, both of the former Nets admitted the deal had to be done, per Kristian Winfield of the Daily News and Michael Scotto of Hoopshype.

“You look at what happened with the Lakers, they did the same thing. In the next year, they went and got their ring,” Jarrett Allen said. “So I take myself out of it, I would love to stay in Brooklyn, but I understand that in the opportunity like that, you have to go do it.”

Taurean Prince agreed, arguing that it’s Sean Marks’ job to, quite literally, make the team better. James Harden does that, FYI.

“You’ve got James Harden who’s probably one of the best scorers we’ve seen in our generation, same with Kev and Kyrie, the great point guard he is. I probably would have done the same thing,” Prince added. “At the end of the day, your job as a GM is to make sure you have the best basketball team that you can have.”

Speaking of that twosome...

What’s next

The Nets will travel to Cleveland to face Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, and the Cavaliers on Wednesday, January 20, part of a two-game series in the Ohio city. The meeting marks the first time the Nets will go up against their former teammates as the game tips off at 7:30 PM ET. The matchup will be broadcasted on YES Network.

For a different perspective on tonight, head on over to Brew Hoops, our Bucks sister site on SB Nation.