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James Harden’s 33-point triple-double not enough as Lakers defeat Nets, 106-96

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Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Michelle Farsi/Getty Images

Another loss at home and back down to .500 at Barclays Center.

The Nets came close but the Lakers had their answers and closed it out when it matter, losing to Los Angeles, 106-96. With the defeat, the Nets fall to 29-18 on the season and 12-12 at home.

“Our emphasis going into the game was transition defense,” said Steve Nash after the 106-96 loss Tuesday night to the Lakers. “ We gave up 20 transition points in the first half. I thought we played pretty hard and had a chance in stretches where we were missing guys and having that full compliment. I thought we lacked a little bit of attention to detail too often to cut the gap in our margin for error, I think that was probably the biggest thing.”

James Harden, who was the lone member of the “Big Three” available, paved the way for Brooklyn, recording his second triple-double against the Lakers this season, tallying 33 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in 38 minutes. Harden shot 11-of-24 from the field and 2-of-7 from 3-point range.

“He had it going early. When an explosive player like James gets going early, it’s easy to watch. I think we just got to do a better job of understanding what they’re trying to do in their defensive scheme,” said James Johnson. “When James gives up the ball, trying not to get him back as much as possible. They stay in their zone or stay in that trap, so just our weak side we got to get better, or the second side, making up pace and x-ing out things like that.”

Outside of Harden, there wasn’t much scoring throughout the contest. Patty Mills finished with 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting overall and 3-of-9 shooting from three in 30 minutes. DeAndre’ Bembry had a good outing with 12 points, four rebounds and one assist in 30 minutes of play.

“I give them a little bit of an out that a lot of these guys haven’t played together or played in those rotations, and are very unfamiliar,” Nash said. “Sometimes that un-connectivity and cohesion isn’t quite there but still, we can do better as far as the details.”

Although Brooklyn outrebounded Los Angeles (54-33), the team paid the price for 19 sloppy turnovers. The Lakers translated the Nets’ turnovers into 19 points. Of the Lakers 106 points, 46 were scored in the paint.

The Nets started Harden, Patty Mills, DeAndre Bembry, Kessler Edwards and Day’Ron Sharpe. Brooklyn got off to a strong start, hitting six of their first 10 shots to take a 15-12 lead with 6:36 left. Harden paved the strong start with a series of aggressive plays, scoring 11 of the Nets’ first 15 points.

The Lakers had the upper hand in the closing minutes of the first. Los Angeles sparked their offense through a series of drives to the rim with little resistance from Brooklyn. The Lakers closed out the first period on a 10-2 run that included a running hook shot from LeBron James at the buzzer to extend their lead to 33-25 after one. Outside of Harden, who carried the scoring load and led the Nets with 16 points, Aldridge had three points in the opening frame.

Brooklyn rested Harden to start the second and during that span, Los Angeles went on a 9-4 burst to extend their lead to 13 with 8:56 left. After Harden checked back into the game, the Nets were able to trim the deficit down to 10 behind a series of Aldridge baskets, but the Lakers weathered the storm and build their lead back up to 14.

The Nets were able to fuel a small burst in the closing minutes of the second to bring the deficit down to nine points at halftime. Harden was leading the Nets’ second-quarter comeback, tallying a near triple-double with a game-high 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 21 minutes. Aldridge was the second-highest scoring Net with nine points in 15 minutes off the bench.

Outside of individual performances, the Nets outrebounded the Lakers, 30-18 and shot 40.7 percent from the field in the frame, but a lackluster 14.3 percent from 3-point range. Brooklyn’s eight first-half turnovers only resulted in eight points, compared to the Lakers' four turnovers turning into seven points for the Nets.

Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

It was a strong start out of the gates for the Nets to start the third. Brooklyn cut Los Angeles' lead down to two after three free throws by Harden with 6:32 left. The Lakers responded, building their advantage back up to 10 points (86-76) with 2:25 left in the third, after a series of threes and a five-point swing off a blown uncontested layup by Bruce Brown.

The Lakers continued to hit pairs of threes in the closing minutes of the third, and the Nets couldn’t weather the storm. After three quarters of play, Brooklyn’s deficit ballooned to 14 points (92-78).

Just as Brooklyn was slowly finding a groove in hopes of pulling out a fourth quarter comeback, the sloppy turnovers mounted for Brooklyn, and the team (not the fans) paid the price. Two straight turnovers led to back-to-back slams from James to put the Lakers up 15 with 6:45 left.

“The second one, I made that pass. He’s one of the best IQ players that matches athleticism. He read it, got it and the rest was LeBron,” said Johnson on the back-to-back dunks by James in the fourth.

With 2:51 remaining, Nash cleared the bench, having Jevon Carter, cam Thomas, Brown. Bembry, and Claxton finish out the loss.

Other than Harden, the Nets had only two other players in double figures, Patty Mills had 15 and DeAndre’ Brembry 12. The three rookies combined for only nine points. Edwards had five, Sharpe four while Thomas didn’t score. The three did have a combined 17 rebounds. Claxton played 17 minutes and finished with six points and six rebounds in his return from hamstring tightness.

For the Lakers, LeBron James finished 33. In his return after missing six weeks with a sprained meniscus, Anthony Davis tallied eight points and two boards in 25 minutes.

The Film Room

What more is there really to say about this one? The Nets entered the game shorthanded with limited room to operate. As Nash said, Brooklyn had a mere crawlspace of room for error.

Thus, the mental mistakes hurt a little extra on Tuesday. Malik Monk shook loose for 22 points off the bench, going 6-of-12 from deep. The Lakers preyed on Brooklyn’s tendency to lose sight of their men while operating in help, setting screens for Monk to flare off of and get open. Here, Kessler Edwards shades help off of Monk at the nail, and so Stanley Johnson slides in to set a pin-in screen for the three-point bucket.

Same general play here: James Harden drifts inside the paint while Austin Reaves drives, his eyes fully zoomed-in on the action ahead. Anthony Davis responds by setting a very solid flare screen to make Harden pay for his ball-watching. Bang, Malik Monk three-pointer.

Most of all, Brooklyn’s malaise in transition reverberated throughout this game. The Nets allowed 27 fastbreak points to the Lakers mere 9, and plays like the one below were littered throughout the game. 37-year-old LeBron James beats everyone down the floor, and all the Nets can do is lazily swipe in a paw to hopefully change the inevitable bucket.

“We made two mental mistakes for whatever reason,” said James Harden after the game. He also added, “Knowing when to crash the glass and when to get back” as a reason for the Nets' struggles with defending the fastbreak.

James Harden on reports he isn’t happy in Brooklyn

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report wrote earlier in the day about Harden’s “openness” to free agency, “frustration” with Kyrie Irving’s part-time status, “disappointment” with Steve Nash’s coaching style etc. So post-game, beat writers asked Harden about the report.

“I don’t know about any reports,” said Harden. “Of course I’m frustrated because there’s a lot of inconsistency for whatever reason: injuries, COVID, or whatever you want to call it. Everyone in this organization is frustrated because we are better than what our record is and we should be on the way up. That’s all it is. If you didn’t hear it from me, then it’s reports. I’m frustrated because I want to win and I’m a competitor. It’s pretty simple.”

Asked about New York, Harden also contended Fischer was mistaken, “Of course (I like living here),” he said.

Nash also responded pre-game to the report.

“I just heard about these reports and I haven’t spoken to him about any of these things,” said the coach. “I’m not sure what to believe. James and I speak all the time and have a great relationship, so I’m not sure the validity of these comments, to be honest. We talk about the rotations; that comment seems very strange.

“We have different guys available pretty much every other night. I don’t see James saying a lot of this stuff and I feel like our relationship has been very good. We’ve worked through a lot of things together this year.”

Haynes: Updates on Joe Harris and Kevin Durant

During the second quarter of Tuesday night’s game against the Lakers, Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, who was working the sideline for TNT, reported that Joe Harris thought he’d be back from his ankle rehab by now, but after some setbacks (which Steve Nash has spoken about), he’s now expected to return is expected after All-Star break.

After the game, Nash confirmed Haynes’ report, noting that getting a second opinion is standard practice.

Kevin Durant, who is recovering from an MCL sprain in his left knee, is also expected to remain out till after the All-Star break. In the third quarter, Haynes followed up the news reporting that Durant will miss the NBA All-Star game in Cleveland.

The All-Star Game is three weeks away, on February 20, in Cleveland.

Milestone Watch

LaMarcus Aldridge passed Joe Johnson for No. 45 all-time in the scoring list. LA now has Will soon pass Mitch Richmond too. He has 20,408, one more than Joe Jesus and 89 short of Richmond.

James Harden (33 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) has posted his second 30-point triple-double against the Lakers this season. He joins Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to register two 30-point triple-doubles against the Lakers in a season. It was Harden’s ninth triple-double of the season and 21st of his Nets career.

Harden had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. It was the fourth time this season that Harden has posted a 20/5/5 first half. Nikola Jokic is second in the league with three. Nets is Kevin Durant with two.

Also, Harden had 16 points in the first quarter, matching the highest-scoring quarter of Harden’s Nets career (previously done three times, including once this season: third quarter on New Year’s Day vs. the L.A. Clippers).

Good news, bad news

Yet again, the Nets set an attendance record, with 18,126 paid attendance. Problem is that so many of the fans were adorned in purple and gold and cheered more for LeBron James than James Harden.

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

Detroit Pistons v Denver Nuggets Photo by Ethan Mito/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images

The Nets will play the second game of their back-to-back Wednesday night at Barclays Center, hosting the Nuggets. The game is slated to tip at 8:00 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective on Tuesday night’s game, check out Silver Screen and Roll — our sister site covering the Lakers.