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Kevin Durant scores 32 as Nets end home-stand with win over Hawks, 117-108

Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Make it three-straight.

The Nets defeated the Hawks, 117-108, Wednesday night to increase their winning streak to three games. With the win, Brooklyn hits the six-game road trip with a 5-3 record while Atlanta falls to 4-4 on the short season.

“I just think we are improving on both ends. We’re understanding defensively how we want to play and offensively, I think we’re becoming more willing to get to second actions, trust and move it against a loaded defense as often as possible,” said Steve Nash after the Nets win Wednesday night. “We’re growing. We’re improving. We’re getting a feel for one another but it’s got to be a process we never let go of.”

It was yet another stunning 30+ point game for Kevin Durant — 32 points on 13-of-20 from the field and 2-of-6 from three. Durant, who was again on the receiving end of MVP chants from the Barclays Center crowd, also snagged seven rebounds and dished five assists as well in the 36 minutes of play. Joe Harris had his best shooting performance of the short season, scoring 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting from behind the arc.

James Harden, who fueled Brooklyn’s strong fourth quarter, finished with 16 points on 5-of-14 from the field with all of his makes coming from 3-point range. Harden also dished 11 assists and snagged four rebounds in 36 minutes of play. Patty Mills and LaMarcus Aldridge contributed huge bursts off the bench, combining for 24 of the 34 total bench points.

“I think we’re seeing improvement from James. We’re seeing a little bit of everything,” said Nash on Harden’s progress. “We’re seeing him get to the basket or get by his guy in the paint a little more. We’re seeing him make more threes, drawing fouls. He had a blocked shot tonight and a big steal, so he’s working at it and getting better. It’s exciting to see him improve.”

While the Nets defense played the role of x-factor in the victory, their ball movement was pivotal. Brooklyn dished a season-high 34 assists on 43 made shots while swishing a season-high 22 threes as well. The team finished the win shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 45.8 percent from three.

“It says a lot. We do a lot of scripting our offense in practice and trying to put people in the best positions to be successful and I liked that we stayed with it,” said Durant on the successful shooting night. “The last week or so, our three-point shots weren’t falling. I thought we generated great shots so tonight, it was great to see the ball go in. Defensively, I thought we did a solid job on the ball all night.”

It was a scoring fest right out of the gate with a quarter that included six lead changes. Both teams opened the first shooting nearly 50 percent from the field, but the Nets couldn’t quite find a rhythm from three through the first six minutes — hitting only 2-of-7, both of them by Harris. The Hawks upped the space and the Nets started to turn the ball over (three TOs), giving Atlanta an early 18-14 advantage with six minutes remaining in the first.

Aldridge — eight of the team's 11 points off the bench in a three-minute stretch — provided a spark and the Nets concluded the first on a 15-4 run with Durant paving the way with 12 points in 12 minutes. At the end of one, Brooklyn held a 35-28 advantage.

Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Brooklyn carried their physical play over to the second quarter, making it difficult for Atlanta to get to the rim. While the Hawks kept Trae Young — 11 first-quarter points — and John Collins on the bench up till the six-minute mark of the second, Atlanta pulled within four and then DeAndre Hunter — who was left uncontested from three throughout the first half — contributed 17 points on 4-of-4 shooting from deep to give the Hawks a 56-51 heading into the final two minutes of play.

Brooklyn answered and closed out the second on a 10-3 run to snag a 61-59 advantage. Durant (16 points) and Harris, who shot 5-of-6 from deep for 15 points, combined for 31 points. As a team, the Nets shot 49 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from three while holding Atlanta to 45.8 percent overall and 45 percent from deep. The defense also forced nine Hawks turnovers, resulting in 15 points for Brooklyn.

After nine minutes of both teams trading baskets and questionable foul calls, Durant heated up and scored seven straight points to hand Brooklyn an 82-75 lead at the 3:37 mark of the third. The Nets defense — sparked by another charge drawn by Griffin, who played the entire third — held the Hawks to only four points in the final three minutes of the third and generated a combined 26-7 run. Durant (31 points) rained a right-wing three at the buzzer to give the Nets a 95-79 advantage heading into the final 12 minutes of play.

“I thought we got stops. We forced a few turnovers. We got defensive rebounds, got out and pushed and obviously we made some shots,” said Nash on the Nets’ 26-7 run to close out the third. “I thought we had a great stretch in the second half where we got a lot of quality looks.”

Atlanta opened the fourth with back-to-back triples, resulting in a Nash calling his first timeout in that final frame. Out of the timeout, the Nets were back in the driver's seat. Harden nailed back-to-back threes (one being a four-point play) to boast Brooklyn’s lead to 113-110 with 4:30 remaining. It was a lead too large and the Nets won the contest, 117-108.

Trae Young was held to 6-of-22 from the field and 2-of-6 from three to finish his night with only 21 points in 37 minutes. DeAndre Hunter led the Hawks with 26 points in 33 minutes of play followed by Kevin Heurter with 16 points in 23 minutes off the bench.

The Film Room

Don’t look now, but Joe Harris is getting his mojo back.

After leading the league in three-point percentage two of the last three seasons, Joe Harris entered Wednesday’s game shooting 36% from deep through 7 games... merely average from three. What we’re saying is, the dude was due for a regression to the mean.

Well, consider the Hawks the unlucky recipient of that regression.

Harris started off ablaze, going 5-of-6 from deep in the first half of the Wednesday showcase against Atlanta. He tacked on an extra three-ball in the second half. Much of Joe’s success was done by capitalizing off Atlanta’s defensive miscues.

“It’s definitely a game where we knew coming into it that they’re heavy shifting, they load up a lot in the paint. And a lot of times, it’s just making simple play out of it,” said Joe Harris. “Simple pass. James would get downhill to defenders would collapse, easy kick out to the high quad. And then it’s sort of just a read-and-react scenario from there. So we were able to get into a lot of positions like that tonight where guys were getting into the paint, defenders are collapsing, and then it’s just all about making the right play from there.”

Below, the Nets run a guard-guard pick-and-roll, with Patty Mills screening for James Harden and then popping into open space. The Hawks attempt to “hedge” to thwart the action, but Lou Williams is late recovering back to Patty Mills. This forces Kevin Huerter to step up, Clint Capela latches onto LaMarcus Aldridge, and Joe Harris is the lucky recipient for the open three.

Here’s Harris once again benefiting from the gravity of others, this time with Kevin Durant drawing two defenders. Trae Young attempts to run out toward Harris but it’s too late — Joey Buckets is, after all, making 41.7 percent of wide-open threes. This is basically a death sentence.

On the season, Harris is now up to 40 percent from deep — right in line with what we’d expect from the notorious sniper.

You can bet your bottom dollar that three-point accuracy continues to climb.

Bottom line for the Nets, it was their best offensive game of the season, setting season highs in: 3-pointers made (22); assists (34) and fastbreak points (28).

Stephen A, meet the Brigade!

ESPN dispatched Stephen A. Smith to Barclays Center Wednesday night — with security — and the Brooklyn Brigade did not miss the opportunity to welcome him to Brooklyn, or should we say, “Brooook-lyn?”

Mike Greenberg, who was also on hand, gave the Brigade some attention as well.

To his credit, Stephen A. engaged with some of the more, um, vociferous Brigade members...

But when one fan suggested that Smith show Kyrie Irving some love, he responded “Hell, NO!” Stephen A. has been among the biggest media critics of Irving’s anti-vaccine stand.

Stephen A, however, was not the biggest celebrity on hand Wednesday. Jay-Z, who’s been a fixture again during this home stand, and David Beckham, English soccer legend and sometime Brooklyn resident, were both on hand. James Harden didn’t miss the opportunity to say hello.

IF Eric Adams loosens COVID-19 mandate, what’ll that mean?

Prior to Wednesday’s game against Atlanta, Steve Nash said he’s welcome Kyrie Irving back to the Nets if New York’s new Mayor-elect, Eric Adams lifted the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in New York — a huge if — on taking office on January 1.

“If the mandate changes, he’d be welcomed back, for sure,” Nash said.

The speculation came about after Adrian Wojnarowski spoke on ESPN’s Countdown about the possibility that Adams, who’s currently Brooklyn Borough President, could revenue the city’s employee vaccination mandate. Woj said that led to some “optimism” that there could be a celebrity carve-out for athletes and entertainers.

“There’s some hope, some optimism, I’m told, including around Kyrie Irving, that revisiting [New York City’s Covid-19 mandates] may also include performers and athletes,” said Woj.

He also reiterated that the Nets have been receiving calls about Irving’s availability in trades.

“They’ve been receiving calls from teams about Kyrie Irving, about their interest in discussing trades with them,” said Woj. “So how does all this fit into the Nets timetable if Kyrie Irving is going to wait into January to see what will happen with the new mayor of New York City. How does that impact how the Nets move forward.”

Here’s Woj’s full comments...

As he said, “there’s a lot to watch here.”

Caris LeVert speaks out on Kyrie Irving

The Knicks — and their beat writers — were in Indianapolis for a game the Pacers won. But also, the writers spoke with Caris LeVert about Kyrie Irving’s situation. LeVert, the former Net, has said in the past that Irving was his favorite teammate, his best teammate.

In talking with the media Wednesday, LeVert said he speaks with Irving, calling the guard’s absence from the Nets “unfortunate” but was careful not to assess blame.

“I think it’s unfortunate what’s happened,” LeVert said. “Everyone wants to see Kyrie play basketball, I think Kyrie wants to play basketball. I know Kyrie wants to play basketball . . . . Hopefully, everyone can come to a conclusion and come back to the court soon.

“You’re going to feel how you want to feel,” he added about the COVID-19 vaccine. “Like I said, everyone wants to see Kyrie play basketball. I think he has a beautiful game. Everyone loves watching him play and obviously he loves playing. So it kind of it is what it is with the rules. You can’t really change that. But hopefully everyone can come to an agreement on something and get him back on the court soon.”

What’s next?

The Nets will embark on a six-game road trip — their longest of the season — on Friday, November 5 when the team travels to Detroit to play the Pistons. The game is scheduled to tip at 7:00 p.m. ET.

“You definitely get so comfortable being at home for so long. Now, it’s even tougher when you go on the road. We’re looking forward to it. It’s a good test for us to see who we are as a group,” said Durant on the upcoming six-game road trip. “It was very important for us to spend these two weeks at home just getting reaquanted with our routine and each other.”

For a different perspective, check out Peachtree Hoops — our sister site covering the Hawks.