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James Harden, Kevin Durant reacts to spoiling Joel Embiid, Sixers’ home opener

Sixers, Nets, Joel Embiid, James Harden, Kevin Durant

The Brooklyn Nets executed a major comeback in a hostile environment on Friday night. Led by Kevin Durant’s triple-double (29 points, 15 boards, 12 assists) the Nets closed the game on a 16-1 run to put the Sixers away late. The final score was 114-109. Their defensive execution really picked up as the game unfolded. Brooklyn held Philadelphia to just 18 points in the final frame. They did an outstanding job against Joel Embiid who only totaled 19 points on 6-15 from the floor and 8 rebounds.

Brooklyn trailed by 10 with 5:32 to go in the 4th but never panicked.

After the game the Nets’ star James Harden talked about the keys to the comeback.

“This was their home opener,” said Harden. “We knew as an organization, as a team they’re going through whatever they’re going through, so we knew there was gonna be a lot of emotion in here. For us we just wanted to win. We wanted to come in here and do whatever it took to win.”

Harden was commenting on the raucous Sixers faithful and the ongoing Ben Simmons saga. The former 1st overall pick in 2016 did not play tonight. Earlier in the day Simmons met with his team and admitted he’s not mentally ready to play for the franchise. Simmons’ impact as a defender was certainly missed down the stretch. Harden and KD both got to face softer matchups because the 6-10 Aussie was out of the lineup.

Harden also praised newly acquired guards Patty Mills and “JC” Jevon Carter. Both played important roles in this one.

“Patty and JC picked up, pressured their guards pretty much [seemed] comfortable all night,” said Harden. “They bring a different dynamic they bring shooting they bring the speed that we need.”

James Harden finished with 20 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds. The 2018 MVP doesn’t quite look like the player he was before a hamstring injury became an ongoing problem for him last season. He did spend a large portion of this summer rehabbing a grade-2 hamstring strain. It could be some time before he looks 100 percent. But he’s still one of the best players on the floor at all times.

The Nets of course brought their own baggage into town. Without the services of Kyrie Irving, coach Steve Nash talked at length about all of the “newness,” and uncertainty in the rotation with the void Irving (unvaccinated) leaves.

Before the game Friday, Nash was critical of his team’s effort in Milwaukee during the opener.

“Yeah we didn’t defend in game 1. I think a large part of it of it was just 50-50 balls. Boxing out, rebounds, stuff like that…. and I think the guys recognized it and know they have to play harder, you know have a little bit more toughness and not be paralyzed by the newness and worrying about how we’re gonna make things fit…can’t stop hustling and competing and playing basketball while we figure it out,” said Nash.

But after the big win, Nash was proud of the way his team responded.

“Really just proud of the guys for their competition level,” said Nash, who was recently voted one of the 75 greatest players of all time by the NBA, alongside KD and Harden. “Thought they stuck with it guys in and out of the lineup….lots of different combinations played and we didn’t get paralysis because of all the newness and change, just fought and played and I think we got a little bit of a confidence boost as the night went on.”

Kevin Durant was asked about all of that uncertainty surrounding players’-roles as they adapt to life without Irving.

“It’s good for guys who weren’t expecting to play bigger roles to step into those roles,” said Kevin Durant. But he wasn’t satisfied. “It was a great team win for us. We got to keep building on this to see what we can do.”

The Nets, 1-1, have their home opener Sunday when they will host the Charlotte Hornets. Sophomore LaMelo Ball dropped 31 in his season debut, so this one could be some must-see-TV. The team will get the chance to continue experimenting and figuring this rotation out on the fly.