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James Harden’s 12th triple-double leads Brooklyn past Minnesota, 112-107

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Minnesota Timberwolves v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Timberwolves gave the Nets their best shot but James Harden had other plans. He was not giving up HIS shot!

It wasn’t a pretty win (at all) against the worst team record-wise in the NBA but led by Harden’s best performance under the Barclays Center lights, Brooklyn defeated Minnesota, 112-107. Harden recorded his 12th triple-double of the season with 38 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in 40 minutes.

In doing so, Harden tied a record that had been seen as one of the franchise’s most unbreakable: most triple-doubles in a single season. Jason Kidd did it twice but it took him 80 and 51 games respectively. It’s taken Harden 32.

“You can never be complacent,” Harden said of his mindset. “I can’t be complacent—I’ve never been like that and I won’t start now. I think I can always be better. I think when you are trying to accomplish something, first you gotta look in the mirror and look at yourself and see what things you can do better and ways you can contribute in a better way for the betterment of the team. I can control everything that is going on around me, I can control it a little bit. But the one thing I know I can control is myself.”

But in the end, the outcome felt more like an escape than a win. Then again, a win is a win.

“Anytime an opposing team comes in here or we are on the road, we feel like we’re going to get their best shot, despite their record,” Irving said postgame. “I feel like we couldn’t get control of the pace of the game. They were crashing the glass, doing the little things tonight, which kept them in the game. A few mistakes on our end, which I think we can clean up. We talked about it in the locker room as a group and watch film tomorrow. These games are coming quick so we’ll take the win and see where we can learn.”

The Timberwolves put in the work and did not go away. Anthony Edwards, who finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds in 35 minutes for Minnesota, snagged a big offensive rebound and finished with the bucket and the foul with 58.6 seconds to bring the Wolves within one (108-107) despite missing the free throw.

Bruce Brown, who had his best game since the All-Star break with 10 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes, snagged an offensive rebound and after Harden hit two clutch free throws to lift the Nets lead to three with 14.0 remaining. Irving iced the game with two free throws as the Nets escaped with the win.

“Very similar game in my eyes,” Nash said comparing Monday’s win to Friday’s win in Detroit. “We find a little separation and we couldn’t turn it up a notch to put them away. In this league, especially a team like that that hasn't won a lot of games, playing against a team that’s towards the top of the conference, once they get a sniff that they are still in this late, they have no pressure. Nothing to lose and you’re hanging on for dear life.

“Not a great performance. A win is a win. We found a way to win it in the end but we got a lot to approve on.”

Kyrie Irving also stuffed the stat sheet, showing no signs of rust from his three-game absence, finishing with 27 points, three assists and seven rebounds in 33 minutes of play. Irving shot 11-of-22 overall and 4-of-8 from deep in the win.

“He made some sensational plays,” Nash said on Irving’s performance. “Played 33 minutes after a week off so, it’s great to have him back - we needed his productivity tonight.”

Brooklyn also got boosts from their veterans, DeAndre Jordan and Jeff Green, who finished with 10 points each. With the win, Brooklyn improves to 32-15 on the season while Minnesota falls to 11-36. The Net are now 18-3 since February 9. Kevin Durant has played in only one of those 21. They are also 10-2 for the month, with one game left vs. the Rockets at home.

For the T-Wolves, Karl Anthony-Towns put on a show, finishing with 31 points and 12 rebounds in 39 minutes with his dad in attendance. It was his first time watching his son play in person since his wife died last year. Jacqueline Towns died in April from complications of the coronavirus.

It was the Irving show in the first as he showed no signs of rust from his personal absence. Irving was electric on the floor, exploding for 15 points on 6-of-7 from the field, as he boosted the Nets' strong first quarter. Brooklyn came out of the gates with a 19-15 lead getting what they wanted offensively, hitting nine of their first 11 shots.

While the offense was in sync, dishing out 13 assists on 16 made shots, against the 27th rated defense in the league, Brooklyn’s defense is what kept the Timberwolves around early. Towns got going early as he scored 10 of Minnesota’s 25 first-quarter points.

Brooklyn missed only seven shots on 23 attempts in the first, shooting 69.6 percent from the field and 4-of-6 from deep. Aside from defense, Griffin faced early foul trouble, racking up four in the opening 12 minutes. Nash gambled leaving the aggressive Griffin in to finish out the first. While Irving was on fire early, Harden had only four points in the first quarter.

The Timberwolves gathered their footing to open the second, taking advantage of Brooklyn’s early turnovers to generate offense and hitting the three-ball. The Nets simmered their shooting, going 1-of-10 from three, as Minnesota forged a 15-4 run to cut the deficit to 48-42. The Timberwolves couldn’t get over the hump as Brooklyn closed out the first half with a 61-52 lead.

It was a strong first half but the Timberwolves did outscore the Nets 27-24 in the second. Despite the negative, Brooklyn capitalized in the paint (30-20), fast break points (17-4) and field goal percentage (50 percent).

The Timberwolves were the clear aggressor in the third. Brooklyn opened the third sloppy on both ends, leading Minnesota to cut the deficit to six (70-64) as Nash called a timeout with 7:13 remaining in the third. Minnesota consistently attacked the offensive glass to create second-chance opportunities and complemented their aggressive play by capitalizing off Brooklyn’s turnovers.

Despite the Timberwolves not going away, the Nets closed out the third on a 9-2 run, behind the play of Claxton, Griffin and Harden to lift the lead to 10 entering the final 12 minutes of play.

Minnesota didn’t go away in the fourth and battled till the final whistle but Harden had other plans. Harden, who had 13 points in the fourth, hit the dagger three with 3:50 remaining to put the Nets up 106-96. After some free throws and key stops, Brooklyn escaped with the win.

It was not a great game for Nic Claxton who finished with two points on 1-of-5 shooting in 24 minutes. He did have five boards and a career-high-tying three blocks.

The Film Room

Karl-Anthony Towns is a tough matchup. There’s your “well, duh” moment of the column.

Throw single coverage him, as the Nets do here with Blake Griffin, and he’ll simply loft a jump-hook over the top like it’s nothing.

Throw defenders two his way and Towns is one of the more unheralded passers in the league, so he’ll find the open man with ease. If you’re going to guard the post as aggressively as the Nets do here, then you had better have the rotations behind the initial coverage to make up the difference. When Joe Harris doubles, Tyler Johnson needs to be cheating over earlier to the open Jordan McLaughlin. That’s a wide-open three off a 10-foot distanced pass. Too easy for an NBA shooter.

The Nets were lucky to come out of this one. They need to clean up the rotations.

More Milestones

As noted, James Harden tied Jason Kidd’s record for most triple-doubles in a Nets season on Monday night, recording his 12th. Interesting to note that between the time Kidd was traded to Dallas at the deadline in 2008 and the time Harden arrived in January, only six Nets recorded a triple double and none more than one. In addition to the big names like Vince Carter, D’Angelo Russell, Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert, two other lesser lights got trip-dubs in that stretch: Terrence Williams and Rafer Alston, both in 2009-10.

Also Monday, Harden passed the 22,000-point mark for his career, giving him 22,005. Only three other active players have more: LeBron James with 35,283; Carmelo Anthony with 27,070 and teammate Kevin Durant at 23,491.

Finally, Harden moved up two more notch in all-time assists. With his 13 vs. Minnesota, The Beard now has 5,703, surpassing Larry Bird (who he also recently passed in career points) and Dywane Wade. He’s now 42nd all-time and sixth among active players. Among the players he’s surpassed this season: Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan and Kareen Abdul-Jabbar.

No regrets says Rafael Stone, Houston GM

In light of near universal criticism of how he parlayed James Harden into Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley (via Victor Oladipo) and a bunch of draft picks and swaps, Rockets GM Rafael Stone told reporters in Houston Monday that he had no regrets about the return he got for Harden.

“Given the types (of draft picks) we got back like, it feels like you can’t possibly know how you did for multiple years, like five, something like that,” Stone said. “But I feel good about it. I would for sure 100 percent do that deal again. There’s literally no part of me regrets doing that deal. I am not second-guessing it for a moment.

“Being in a position to not have to be bad, there’s some other things we’ve done to help that, too, but it’s primarily that deal that’s allowed us to say, ‘Hey, we want to compete on a slightly quicker time frame.’ We’re not going to go down this path of trying to intentionally lose games for years on end.”

Stone also said that it might take until 2030 to determine how well or badly he did in the deal.

Bottom line of course is that Stone is betting against Sean Marks’ ability to sustain success in Brooklyn. If the Nets go into a decline, then the pick swaps in 2023, 2025 and 2027 could be valuable as will the unprotected picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026. But if the Nets continue along their current path, then the swaps simply go away and the picks will be low first rounders. He’s already lost out on the first swap, in this year’s draft. The Nets will likely finish in the bottom five of the first round, the Rockets top five.

The Rockets also acquired the Bucks first next year from the Cavaliers. With Giannis Antetokounmpo signing for five years, that doesn’t look like a top pick either.

Another Hall of Fame for Steve Nash

Brian Mahoney of AP reports that Steve Nash, already in the Basketball Hall of Fame will be inducted in the FIBA Hall of Fame which is located in Mies Switzerland. He will be enshrined into the FIBA Hall of Fame during a digital ceremony on June 18.

The Hall, established in 2007, honors international basketball rather than the NBA. Of Nash. the Hall said in a statement...

Nash, one of his country’s most celebrated players, was a point guard at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 1994 in Toronto and captain of his national team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Also the MVP of the FIBA AmeriCup 1999 in Puerto Rico after leading Canada to a runners-up finish, Nash’s professional career spanned almost two decades in the NBA, where he was MVP in both 2005 and 2006.

Nash was selected for the 2020 class but the ceremony was postponed because of the pandemic. Of course, you’d hope Nash will have other priorities around the time of the mid-June induction.

As Sponge Bob might say...

Per Will Hanley

What’s next

The Nets will return to action on Wednesday, March 31 when the team hosts the struggling Houston Rockets. The game is set to tip at 7:30 PM ET.

For a different perspective, check out Canis Hoopus - our sister site covering the Minnesota Timberwolves for SB Nation.