Kevin Durant ejection sparks Nets to rout of Pistons
Kevin Durant got ejected. The Nets got a blowout win anyway.
Brooklyn had a double-digit lead by the time Durant got tossed for an ill-advised elbow. And it actually seemed the team was inspired by the call, almost immediately blowing the game completely open in a 117-91 laugher over Detroit at Barclays Center on Sunday.
It was James Harden who led the way, looking more like his All-Star self with his first triple-double of the season.
Harden finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists — five of them in the game-clinching 11-0 third-quarter run after Durant’s departure. The Nets improved to 12-1 when Harden notches a triple-double — including 11 straight wins.
The most auspicious sign was Harden following up Friday’s 29-point breakout against Indiana with another aggressive outing.
“I mean, it was aggressive and no matter who was on him, he was attacking [Friday],” Bruce Brown had said. “I think sometimes he tries to get the ‘pick-on’ guy a little too much, when nobody in the league can guard him. So really just attack anybody who’s in front of him, and have that dog mentality.”
That’s exactly what the Nets needed from him with Durant gone.
It was a Harden floater that had spotted Brooklyn an 85-68 lead with 3:38 left in the third quarter before they lost Durant moments later. Durant hit Kelly Olynyk in the face with his right elbow, getting hit himself with a Flagrant 2.
After getting away lightly for Friday’s indiscretion against Indiana — merely a fine for heaving the ball into the stands in frustration, but no ejection — Durant wasn’t so lucky against the Pistons, tossed with a game-high 23 points on 10 of 13 shooting, five assists and one ill-advised elbow.
But the Nets themselves were fortunate to be facing a subpar Detroit team on the tail end of a back-to-back, that had only notched its first victory of the season Saturday and was playing without the No. 1 overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft, Cade Cunningham (right ankle).
After Olynyk sank both ensuing free throws, and Corey Joseph’s jumper sliced the lead to 13 points, the Nets immediately responded and blew it open.
Brooklyn reeled off 11 unanswered points, largely orchestrated by Harden. He started the run by finding LaMarcus Aldridge (16 points) for an 11-foot jumper. He hit Patty Mills for a 3-pointer, Deandre’ Bembry for a driving layup, Aldridge for a layup of his own, and finally Bembry on a spectacular alley-oop dunk.
That highlight-reel play put the Nets ahead 96-72 with four seconds left in the third quarter, and the fourth was extended garbage time.
And it bodes well to see Harden attacking.
“I think that’s part of it,” coach Steve Nash said. “I think the bigger part of it is just the guy hasn’t played a lot of basketball and so there was more hesitancy rather than aggression and we’ve tried to push him as he’s started to feel more confident and comfortable to attack, attack early, attack often, get to the paint, don’t try to outthink people all the time.
“He’s a brilliant basketball player and I think he has an incredible IQ but sometimes especially when he’s trying to find his legs and his rhythm, it’s equally as valuable to think less and attack and to play with more intensity. So I think he’s dealing with a lot of things and he’s trying to figure out with such little action in a bunch of months, it’s a natural progression and obviously it was nice to see him have some moments that we’ve become accustomed from James against Indiana and I think he’s trending in the right direction.”
Published at Mon, 01 Nov 2021 02:19:33 +0000