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Nets sweep West Coast trip, beating Clippers, 112-108, as James Harden, Kyrie Irving combine for 65

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NETS WORLD! NETS WORLD! Party on, James! Party on, Kyrie!

James Harden and Kyrie Irving combined for 65 points and the Nets defeated the Clippers, 112-108, sweeping their West Coast road trip while extending their winning streak to six games, and improving to 20-12 on the season. Brooklyn is now a half a game behind the Sixers for first in the East.

It was the first time in franchise history that the Nets swept a West Coast road trip. In fact, it was the first time a Nets team had won more than three games out west.

“We have a common mentality right now to just go out and have fun,” said Kyrie Irving. “Go out and have fun, compete, and be very physical. Be talkative out there against other players or against other coaching staffs.

“We just have a veteran group, so we just get to go out there and hold each other accountable a little bit differently. We get to talk to each other with a purpose... It’s really fun when you know that getting stops, playing defense, and everybody getting a chance to play and improve themselves, it just makes us better.”

The game featured four of the league’s most dynamic scorers in Harden, Irving, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard as the game went down to the final minute. The Nets were up most of the game, but then, their character was tested.

With 28.6 remaining, Leonard connected on a pair of free throws to tie the game at 108. On the following possession, Irving missed an ISO-three but DeAndre Jordan, who finished with his third double-double on the season with 13 points 11 rebounds and four blocks tipped the ball in to put the Nets up 110-108 with 11.8 seconds remaining.

The Clippers gave the ball to Leonard who drove down the lane and pushed off Harden to draw an offensive foul. Harden, who finished with 37 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists in 41, calmly nailed two free throws to seal the win. Irving wasn’t far behind in the box score, with 28 points, eight assists, and four rebounds in 40 minutes of play.

Nash credits the Nets competitiveness for his team’s winning streak. The Nets head coach did not call Sunday’s win perfect but admired his players' hustle and desire to fight and win.

“I think the level of competitiveness we showed consistently through the trip,” Nash said on what he is most proud of in the Nets west coast road trip sweep. “Going back to the Indiana game, we’ve competed very well. We scrapped but also our concentration levels have been high. I don’t think tonight was perfect by any stretch with lots of breakdowns but our hustle and overall desire carried us in stretches. That is the way it’s got to be sometimes.”

Bruce Brown played a big role for the Nets on both ends, finishing with 13 points to go along with eight rebounds, two assists, and a season-high four steals in 34 minutes.

Even without Kevin Durant for the fourth straight game, Nets finished the win shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 28.9 percent from deep while turning over the ball six times. For the Clippers, who fall to 22-10 on the season, George led the way with 34 points in 33 minutes followed by Kawhi Leonard with 29 points in 39 minutes.

The two teams opened the game easily hitting their shots but there was some early chippiness. At the 8:54 mark. Harden dribbled the ball up the court and was met by Patrick Beverley, who held Harden with his right arm beginning a small altercation. Despite the altercation, the officials did not give either Beverley or Harden, who are also former teammates, technicals.

The altercation did not affect Harden or Irving, who led the Nets offensive charge throughout the first. combining for 25 of Brooklyn’s 28 first-quarter points - marking the third time this season a pair of Nets finished a quarter of play scoring a dozen or more points. each Jeff Green scored the other three points for Brooklyn as the Nets lead 30-28 after one.

Brooklyn carried their offensive firepower into the second and the Nets increased their effort defensively, which was the difference-maker. The Nets held the Clippers to only 51 first-half points while forcing nine turnovers. Brooklyn ended the first half with a 58-51 lead, shooting 48.9 percent overall but a streaky 35.3 percent from deep. Despite closing out the first half on a strong note, the Nets lost Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot for the remainder of the game after the Nets 6’7” wing suffered a right hip contusion at the 10:31 mark of the second.

The game got even scarier in the third. The Nets defense remained strong while their offensive firepower followed, which even included a double-pump Irving dunk in transition. Following the slam, Ty Lue and the Clippers called a timeout and bounced back, pulling together a quiet offensive run but Brooklyn answered and controlled the tempo.

Aside from the Nets stellar play on both ends, Brooklyn ended the period without a single turnover and only three for the game. The Nets entered the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead.

Brooklyn did not let go in the final 12 minutes of play but the turnovers added up. The Nets turned over the ball three times in less than three minutes as the Clippers, led by Paul George, rallied back and cut the deficit to single-digits.

With just under three minutes remaining, Jeff Green took a hard hit off an illegal Beverley screen. Green laid on the court visibly in a lot of pain, favoring his right shoulder. After laying on the court for nearly two minutes, Green was able to walk to the locker room on his own power but he looked like he was favoring his right shoulder. In his post-game media availability, Steve Nash had no update on either Green or TLC but shortly thereafter, the team announced that Green had suffered a right shoulder contusion and will be further evaluated Monday.

Despite the late comeback by the Clippers, the Nets held on to win and sweep the road trip. Yes, It can get even scarier!

Billionaire owners at big game

On hand for the game were the two teams’ billionaire owners, Joe Tsai of the Nets ($13.9 billion) and Steve Ballmer of the Clippers ($86,8 billion). Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO, sat under the basket and did his best “Mr. Whammy” impression trying to distract Nets free throw shooters.

Tsai was seen briefly on YES talking to Sean Marks. He did not counter Ballmer at the other end of the court but he was seen re-enacting Patrick Beverley’s foul on Jeff Green. He was not pleased.

He did tweet out his feelings about the win...

The Film Room

Steve Nash’s ATO design has been delightfully wonderful this road trip. By my count, the Nets were 2-for-2 on scoring and/or generating free throws from sideline after-timeout sets. Much of Brooklyn’s out-of-bound work over the past week has been designed to generate perimeter shots. Here’s an example from the Lakers game.

The play begins with Timothe-Luwawu Cabarrot setting a back-screen (which faces away from the basket) for Landry Shamet. The defense, naturally, assumes that the play is set up to give Shamet an at-rim shot. But then, TLC redirects and curls around a DeAndre Jordan flare screen for the open three.

Now take this ATO against the Clippers. Same idea; one player cuts to a specific of the floor off a screen, but it’s misdirection as the set is REALLY designed for the player screening.

Joe Harris cuts from the baseline toward the top of the three-point line, right past what appears to be a DeAndre Jordan pindown. Seeing that Jordan is setting a screen for Harris, the Clipper defense naturally assumes the play is designed for Joey Buckets three-ball, and Kawhi Leonard eases up for a second while surveying the action. DeAndre Jordan, whose rolling abilities have been pretty spectacular as of late, takes advantage of this by slipping his screen to the basket. Two points, Brooklyn.

In games with playoff atmospheres like this, every possession matters.

Fast start!

It seems like every quarter, there’s a data dump from the Nets PR staff noting how this season’s Nets team or a Nets player has matched or surpassed a record set in the Jason Kidd-era. James Harden for example has now set a franchise record for consecutive games with a double-double at 12.

But here’s the one that counts...

That asterisk? Teams that got to the NBA Finals.

Harden, Jordan help Houston

James Harden may have left Houston behind on January 13, but he still has a home there and played nine years for the Rockets. So when Houston —and the rest of Texas— was hit by a 100-year winter storm that’s led to millions of people suffering without electricity, without water and even without food, Harden pitched in. He started with the donation of 3,000 meals from his new restaurant, “Thirteen.”

More than that, he told reporters Sunday that even while the Nets have been on the road, he’s been on the phone.

“I’m literally on phone calls literally every day and all day trying to impact the city because they’ve shown me so much love and respect in the time I was there,” Harden said post-game. “I call Houston home. It’s devastating obviously and it’s probably worse than the hurricane because we don’t know how many people were affected in not having electricity, not having power, not being able to eat, and be outside or whatever the case may be.

“Obviously I have a restaurant in Houston that isn’t open yet but we are trying to feed as many people as we can. Lots of water.”

Harden noted that he’s working with Body Armor, who is helping with the water shipments. He’s also trying to help with getting plumbers mobilized. Many homes in Houston have had flooding after pipes froze and burst.

“We are getting a lot of water shipped in this week for people which I will be posting. As far as plumbing, I reached out and I am in contact with some plumbing companies that have been taking care of seven or eight houses a day, patching up these pipes because once the electricity came back on, pipes started to burst.

“We’ve seen so many cases of that in Houston so I’ve been in contact with Mayor Turner, the relief game, and so many people that are able to help while I’m not there. This is a huge problem but I try to impact and help out as much as I can while I’m not there and I will continue that. It won’t stop because there is so many people that have been affected. I can’t stop.”

Dream Shake, our SB Nation Rockets blog, chronicled Harden’s efforts this weekend.

Jordan’s ties are even closer. He’s a native of Houston and went to college at Texas A&M. He still has family in the area that was impacted and told reporers all of them are safe now. He’s also aided in humanitarian efforts for his hometown.

“Just for people’s lives to be a little bit easier anyway that James and I can help we’ve been doing things behind the scenes as much as possible. Just getting resources to a lot of the people out there whether we’re there or not, just being able to help a human being out during a time like this is something we both value,” Jordan said.

“I think everybody was affected regardless of your situation out there in Texas as a whole. My family definitely was very fortunate in this time but like I said they had some times where it was tough for a little bit but everything is getting better there at the moment.”

What’s next

The Nets are returning back to the Barclays Center as the team hosts the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. The game is set to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised on YES Network. Tuesday’s game will also be the first game fans will be in attendance to watch the Nets “Big Three!” The crowd will be small, basically a few hundred season ticket holders clustered in areas that will look like suites.

Harden is excited to be able to witness the Nets crowd, noting how much he appreciates the Brooklyn fan base.

“I can’t wait. I’m excited,” Harden said with a smile. “One of the reasons I wanted to be in Brooklyn is because of the fans and the fanbase. True, true fans.”

In the meantime, don’t be surprised if the Nets make several moves in the next few days, with five players on non-guaranteed contracts. Ten-day deals can be signed Tuesday. Teams must decide by Wednesday whether to keep players on non-guaranteed deals. Also, coming up is the March 7 deadline on keeping two-way players. Players can be moved among the categories, as the Nets did last with Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. He went from two-way signing to a ten-day contract before being signed to a two-year standard NBA deal with guarantee dates.

And if you really have a real basketball jones, you can tune into to ESPN2 Monday at 3 p.m. to watch the Long Island Nets play Team Ignite, the G League’s alternative for high school players who don’t want to go to college.

For a different perspective on tonight’s game, check out Clips Nation - our sister site covering the Los Angeles Clippers for SB Nation.