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James Harden’s season-high 39-point double-double leads Nets past Clippers, 124-108

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Brooklyn Nets v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets own The Crypt.

The Nets defeated the Clippers, 128-108 at the newly named arena in Los Angeles Monday night, two days after putting down the Lakers. With the victory, Brooklyn improves their league-best road record to 13-3 and remains on top of the Eastern Conference with an overall record of 23-9. The Nets are now 2-0 in The Crypt, while the Lakers and Clippers have yet to win at home since the name change, losing to the Nets twice and the Nuggets once.

As Joe Tsai tweeted...

“It’s just a tribute to the guys and resilience. We’ve managed this COVID situation very well and we got to keep building,” said Steve Nash on the Nets mini-sweep over both LA teams. “We incorporate some new guys out of protocols when we get home and it’s important for us to continue to adapt, build, grow and get better.”

Fresh off a 36-point triple-double on Christmas Day, James Harden led Brooklyn with his fifth 30+ point game of the season (39 points (season-high), eight rebounds and a season-high 15 assists in a team-high 40 minutes of play.

“He looked great,” said Steve Nash on Harden’s performance. “He played very well. Obviously played great Christmas Day and carried it over. He was getting to the rim a ton, made some threes, fifteen assists, three turnovers, and just set the tone for us and was outstanding.”

With his 10th assist of the contest, the Nets superstar became only the 10th player in league history with 20,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists.

“He’s historically great. The numbers he’s put up are incredible. He’s one of the best players of this generation and it’s mind-boggling to think of all the numbers he’s put up and all the success he’s had,” Nash said on Harden’s milestone. “I just think he’s one of those very, very special players. Not only of this generation but historically and the numbers back it up.”

He joined Kobe Bryant, Clyde Drexler, John Havlicek, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Gary Payton, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Russell Westbrook in the exclusive club. In addition, Harden’s also the only Net ever with 35+ points and 15+ assists in a single game.

“I just want to win and try to find ways to impact the game on a night-in and night-out basis. That’s it, man,” Harden said. “I just try to go out there and do what I can do to the best of my abilities every night and help our team rebound, hitting guys for open shots, hit our open bigs and make it easy for them scoring the ball, and be that triple threat that I can be every single night.

“I’m sure the other nine guys are elite and Hall of Famers, so I just got to keep pushing.”

Nic Claxton and Patty Mills also didn’t look like they wanted to leave the City of Angels after the impressive sweep. Claxton strung together another stealthy performance, tallying a career-high-tying 18 points, five rebounds, three blocks and two assists in 30 minutes of play. The young big shot 8-of-9 from the floor.

“His confidence is growing. This is his first year where he’s like knowing himself, knowing what we expect out of him and what he has to do on a night-in and night-out basis,” said Harden on Claxton’s recent play. “I tell him every single day, anyone can have one good game. Anyone can have two good games. What separates yourself is when you do it on a night-in and night-out basis. Consistency, especially for a young guy. Once you can build that and great habits, then you got something special.

“That’s something he’s learning but it’s my job to make sure he has that mindset every single game. He’s going to be a key part of where we want to go.”

Mills ended the road win with 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting from 3-point range. He played 35 minutes and dished two assists and snagged three rebounds as well.

Blake Griffin had a quiet yet productive night off the bench against his former team. Griffin recorded a near double-double of 12 points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes, followed by DeAndre’ Bembry with 12 points, two rebounds and five assists in 29 minutes of play as a starter.

It was shades of Christmas Day and another sluggish fourth quarter for Brooklyn. The Nets entered the final 12 minutes of play with a 20-point lead and the Clippers and their young guns didn’t fade away. It was another small scare, but Brooklyn weathered the storm comfortably to escape LA with a soothing victory.

The Nets opened the game with the same starting five used on Christmas Day — Harden, Mills, Brown, Bembry and Claxton. The Clippers had the Nets' number early, forging a seven-point advantage powered by the defense and three-point shooting, but the Nets responded with an 11-0 run that included back-to-back two-man game plays between Harden and Griffin to take their first lead (27-23) with 3:15 left in the first.

Brooklyn concluded the first with a 38-31 lead, forged by Harden with 14 points, five assists and one rebound. Griffin, who winded back the clock with a powerful left-handed tomahawk dunk recorded seven points, five rebounds and two assists while Claxton tallied an early eight points.

The three-balls were raining on both ends of the court to start the second, but Brooklyn weathered the storm and got out in transition. After a strong downhill finish by Brown, the Nets grew their lead (52-43) with 6:29 remaining in the second frame. Shortly after, the Nets pulled out some showtime in LA with a highlight sequence: Mills gets on the floor for the loose ball, flips it to Harden, who bounced passed it to Bembry for a fast-break dunk to boost the lead to 12 points.

When the halftime buzzer sounded, Brooklyn set a series of season-highs: most points scored in any half (71 points), biggest halftime lead on the road (16 points) and scoring advantage in the paint (42-16). The series of season-highs at the break were anchored by Harden, who registered his third-highest first half scoring line of the season — 22 points, eight assists and three rebounds, followed by Claxton with 10 points and two rebounds.

Brooklyn Nets v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

It wasn’t hard for the Nets to match their play in the third quarter.

It was the Brooklyn way throughout the third quarter and a 12-minute clinic that quieted the arena. The Nets expanded their lead to a game-high 22 points midway through the period and came only one point shy of setting a season-high in points scored through three quarters (102 on Christmas Day against the Lakers) hitting the final 12 minutes with a commanding 101-81 lead.

Milestone Watch

As noted, James Harden joined an elite company tonight with his 6,000th assists, becoming only the 10th player in NBA history with 20,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists. It was also Harden’s second game with 35+ points and 15+ assists as a Net. He had a 40 and 15 game last season vs. the Pacers. No other player in franchise history has recorded 35+ points and 15+ assists in one game.

Brooklyn is a league-best 13-3 on the road (franchise record 10 games over .500). Dating back to last season, Brooklyn is a league-best 17-4 on the road vs. Western Conference opponents.

With the win, Steve Nash moved into fourth place in head coaches winning percentage, passing Larry Bird. Nash has now won 69.8 percent of his games as a Nets coach over the past two seasons. He surpassed Larry Bird and is behind only Phil Jackson, Billy Cunningham and Steve Kerr.

Nic Claxton tallied a career-high-tying 18 points (previously done last May vs. San Antonio).

Thank you, Artesia Pioneers

Just before tipoff, James Harden tweeted out his thanks to his high school for retiring his number, 13 of course, in between monster games up the freeway at The Crypt.

In his post-game talk with Ian Eagle, Harden spoke about how Artesia High is where he first fell in love with basketball.

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The Nets will return back to Brooklyn and host the Sixers on Thursday, Dec. 30. The game is scheduled to tip at 7:00 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective on Monday night’s game, check out Clips Nation — our sister site covering the Clippers.