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Spooky! James Harden’s first triple-double of season helps Brooklyn cruise past Detroit, 117-91

Detroit Pistons v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

It got spooky in Brooklyn.

The Nets defeated the Pistons, 117-91, Sunday night. With the win, Brooklyn racks up their first pair of consecutive wins for the 2021-22 season and rises to 4-3 on the year. Meanwhile, Detroit concluded the second game of their back-to-back and fell to 1-5.

There were plenty of positives to go around for Brooklyn in the blowout victory. Out of all, the emerging of confidence for James Harden as he continues his quest to return to his usual self. He took a big step Sunday.

“I’m just playing. I think the confidence and just my rhythm and all that is coming back simultaneously together,” Harden said. “It feels much, much better. I kind of knew I was going to have a slow start just because I wasn’t playing a lot but I knew the work was going to catch up and ultimately I was going to get back to where I was going to be. Game by game, I just feel more better. Just overall, much better.”

Harden recorded his first triple-double of the season (his 13th as a Net) with 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes of action. The trip-dub was also the 59th of his career, tying him with Larry Bird for seventh place.

“I think he’s improving in all areas,” said Steve Nash on Harden regaining his usual form of production. “I think his conditioning, explosiveness, his confidence, his feel, his rhythm and everything is moving forward in the right direction.”

His best assist came in the third.

“We actually talked about that before the play happened and just on certain reads where people would be,” said DeAndre’ Bemrby about the highlight play after the game. “It kind of worked out where I told him I’m gonna go backdoor for the lob if you need another option. And they jumped out, he split the screen, we didn’t expect that to happen. So he made a play and I was able to go backdoor and we talked about that before the play actually happened. So it kind of worked out.”

Kevin Durant’s night got cut short following his ejection in the third quarter. Durant, who received a flagrant two for a high elbow on Kelly Olynyk in the closing minutes of the third, finished his Halloween with 23 points (10-of-13 shooting from the field and 1-of-1 from deep) to go with five assists and one rebound in 27 minutes of action.

“I tried to run through the screen. That was just a result of me trying to blow the screen up. From looking at it from the tape, it looked like I extended a little bit, but I was just trying to blow the screen up,” said Durant on the ejection play. “It is what it is.”

The ejection comes in wake of Durant throwing the ball into the stands during Friday’s win over Indiana — a situation he should’ve been ejected from following the official pool report.

“I saw the replay,” said Nash on Durant’s ejection in the third quarter. “I don’t know really what the rule is and what the line is, so I shouldn’t really comment because I’m not really sure what the presidency is or what they’re looking for.”

LaMarcus Aldridge continued to gain comfort on The Clays hardwood, finishing with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting in 21 minutes off the bench. He’s had 27 in the last two games, shooting 17-of-24. DeAndre’ Bembry provided an additional boost off the bench with 15 points in 24 minutes, showing off some neat finishing skills.

“He’s like that calming force and you know, you could throw the ball to him in the post, he’ll slow stuff down. He’s a good passer, obviously a great mid-range shooter,” said Kevin Durant about Aldridge. “Good back to the basket player.”

Brooklyn shot a franchise-record 65.3 percent from the floor and 52.0 percent from deep the former breaking a record that stood for 39 seasons. It was another solid night defensively, but the team did cough up 20 turnovers (17 points for Detroit).

“Sometimes there's a little bit of randomness and variance with shots going in and out, but I thought overall we tried to play the right way,” Nash said. “We tried to get into actions. We tried to play early, quick, share the ball and make good decisions. We turned it over a little too much but I thought we stuck with it and tried to play the right way.”

Although the Nets were rolling early with Steve Nash’s favorite lineup — Harden, Harris, Brown, Durant and Griffin. It didn’t take long for Durant and Harris to heat. They combined for 15 of the team’s first 16 points but the defensive energy level dipped in the final minutes of the frame. Jerami Grant led Detroit’s offense — 43.5 percent shooting from the field and 37.5 percent from three — with nine points in 11 minutes. Brooklyn’s eight-point lead evaporated quickly. They were up by only three, 28-25, at quarter’s end.

The Pistons knotted the score at 28 with their first basket of the second — a 25-foot stepback three from Josh Jackson — but it didn’t take long for the Nets to get the lead back. Brooklyn forged an 8-0 run in less than a minute of play behind the perimeter shooting of Bembry, Aldridge and Jevon Carter. And then the offense began to pull away and got spooky — 66.7 percent from the field.

Durant (19 points on 8-of-11 shooting overall and 1-of-1 from three) paved the way for Brooklyn’s offense, followed by Harden with 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds in 17 minutes. Aldridge looking at ease, contributed a series of mid-range jumpers (what else?) for 10 points in 11 minutes off the bench.

Detroit Pistons v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Brooklyn outscored the Pistons 17-7 through two and a half minutes of play and capsulated the first half nursing a commanding 64-49 advantage. The biggest lead of the half for the Nets was 17 points. The 64 points scored, as well as the 66.7 percent shooting overall — were both the most Brooklyn registered in any half this season.

The Nets' offense overwhelmed the Pistons in the third. Harden continued to show strong flashes of his typical self and Brooklyn got a boost from Griffin in the early minutes of the frame.

However, things got dicey and Brooklyn took a big hit when they lost their best player. Durant got tossed from the contest after receiving a flagrant 2 for throwing a high elbow at Kelly Olynyk with 3:23 remaining in the third with the Nets ahead 85-72. That didn’t change much as Brooklyn finished the frame on an extended 11-2 run, led by Harden to boast a 22-point lead heading into the final 12 minutes.

“It’s important. You lose Kevin. You have a nice lead but the momentum can swing fast. I think when we lost Kevin, it was important we continued to show the willingness to try to be attack-minded and do the right things,” said Nash on the 11-2 run following Durant’s ejection. “I thought James was great. He led us in that stretch being aggressive, making the right decisions and protecting the ball. That was a pivotal stretch to make sure we can win tonight.”

After the Nets ballooned their lead to 30 points in the fourth quarter, it was a wrap in Brooklyn. Nash played his deep bench and rookies Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe got burned. Sharpe drilled his first NBA triple (and first since high school) to finish out the contest with the iconic Broook-lyn chants raining down at the final buzzer.

The slumping Pistons were led by Jerami Grant with 11 points in 27 minutes followed by Corey Joseph with 13 points in 21 minutes of action off the bench.

The Film Room

Prior to his ejection, Kevin Durant was having one of those games.

The Detroit Pistons threw every type of defensive coverage at him. They hedged ball screens. They switched to take away driving lanes. They even threw a couple of hard traps at midcourt KD’s way. It didn’t matter. Kevin Durant was unstoppable. Well, he’s always unstoppable. But he was especially unstoppable, scary on Halloween night... how fitting.

Here, he hits a sweet hang-dribble into a between-the-legs move against Jermai Grant, dribbling underneath his right leg as it steps forward. It’s almost impossible to discern between Durant’s driving game and pull-up shooting proficiency on moves like this.

Granted, this is a pretty solid contest from Jerami Grant but it didn’t matter. That was the trend on Sunday night. Saddiq Bey played some of the best defense on Kevin Durant this year and he was rewarded with an avalanche of 15-footers in his grill.

It’s a shame his night ended like this:

After the game, Durant joked about his third-quarter ejection. As mentioned, the Nets went on a big 11-2 run to close out the quarter after KD was banished to the locker room.

“I want to take credit and say I ignited my team and my leadership was the reason why we were able to go on that 11-0 run,” said Durant. “So I ignited the crowd with me getting kicked out of my team.”

At least he’s in good spirits.

Don’t expect rotation changes anytime soon

Blake Griffin has not had a good start to the year. 48.4% of shots have come from three, the second-highest 3-point rate of his career, and he’s shot 1-for-10 on those looks — just 6.7%. It’s been ugly.

Even with Griffin’s ongoing struggles, don’t expect the 32-year-old’s role to change. Steve Nash made it clear that Blake’s spot in the rotation — starting center — is safe for the foreseeable future. For as well as backup center LaMarcus Aldridge is playing (12 points per game on 64.3% shooting), the Nets feel most comfortable bringing him off the bench.

“We’re not really thinking about changing roles,” explained Steve Nash. “I think (Blake Griffin) has been successful there for us in the past and LaMarcus is successful coming off the bench right now. So I think there’s no reason to make any big changes.”

Nash went on to mention that the Nets as a whole look to trend small — and spacier — deploying more one-big man lineups with shooters surrounding. Part of this pertains to availability; Nicolas Claxton is out for the foreseeable future due to a non-COVID illness and Paul Millsap is away from the team on paternity leave. The Nets only have two centers at their service, LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin.

“I think when we’re a smaller team with shooters and playmakers, you definitely want to spread the floor, play with pace, make quick decisions,” said Nash “And I think that makes us more difficult to guard.”

How scary were the hours?

Before the game, members of the Nets performance team got dressed up and surprised James Harden with their Halloween costumes in the Nets training room. Kevin Durant posted a video of the group, then Harden posed with them.

“It surprised me when I walked into the training room. I don’t know why Kevin posted that (laughing).” said Harden.

Don’t ask us to identify them. That’s how good the costumes were.

YES team wins big at Emmys

YES Network got well-deserved recognition Saturday night when the network won eight New York Emmy Awards, including statuettes for Ian Eagle (play-by-play) and Sarah Kustok (analyst). Eagle and Kustok also won last year, the first time that a broadcast team won New York Emmys for Sports Play-by-Play and Sports Analyst in the same year. Eagle’s win was his sixth straight and seventh in the last nine years.

Congratulations to all.

What’s next

Brooklyn Nets v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Nets will top off their six-game homestand on Wednesday, November 3 when the team hosts the Atlanta Hawks. The game is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective on Sunday night’s victory over the Pistons, check out Detroit Bad Boys — our sister site.