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James Harden, Kevin Durant get brutally honest on Nets’ loss vs. Suns

James Harden, Nets, Kevin Durant, Suns

The Brooklyn Nets were defeated by the Golden State Warriors at home earlier this month. On Saturday, with a record 18,071 turnout at Barclays Center, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Co. lost to another Western Conference powerhouse in the Phoenix Suns113-107.

The Nets are now 14-6 while the reigning Western Conference Champions are now 16-3, just a game behind Stephen Curry’s Warriors. Phoenix gets to continue its winning streak, which now stands at 16 in a row.

The final score may have been close, but the game was generally a blowout as the Suns built more than one 20-point lead. A 15-4 late flurry by Brooklyn cut the Suns’ lead to seven with around two minutes remaining. And they even shaved the lead down to six with 20 seconds remaining, but they couldn’t climb that mountain.

The biggest story in this one, however, was James Harden’s very long night.

While the three-time scoring champion did record his fourth triple-double of the season with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists, he really struggled from the floor. The Beard was just 4-of-16 overall and 0-of-6 from downtown with a game-high seven turnovers. He didn’t look great. The story of his season has been three steps forward and two steps back as he returns from a rather serious hamstring injury and acclimates to new rule changes aimed at non-basketball plays.

After the game, Harden was asked if the hamstring was still bothering him and he offered a definitive “nah.”

He was reminded of how he gave up his traditional 2-guard role to become the team’s de facto point guard last season with Kyrie Irving in the fold. And Harden was asked if he needs to assume more of a scoring role than he has without Irving being around.

His answer didn’t pull any punches.

“Honestly, I’m trying to figure all that out right now,” Harden admitted. “I’m trying to figure it out. Trying to figure out when to score, when to be a playmaker when to run offense, when to do a little bit of everything. Just trying to figure it out. It’s been a little difficult, especially since, you know, well, whatever, but it’s been a little difficult but I’m just trying to figure it out.”

It’s hard not to wonder what he stopped himself from saying. The Beard also gave some praise to Phoenix wing Mikal Bridges for his tenacious full-court defense.

Kevin Durant was asked about his teammate. Do the Nets want to play with Harden scoring a lot or do they like him in that pass-first role?

“I just think we can do both,” explained Durant, who finished with 39 points, nine rebounds and seven dimes. He heard some MVP chants from the crowd during a late run in the fourth also. “I mean we can play around both variations of James. Scoring and facilitating. And [Harden had] 14 assists 13 rebounds, we gonna need that. [Harden] definitely would wanna shoot the ball better, but I like his aggressiveness.”

Meanwhile, Nets coach Steve Nash had high praise for his former team: “Great look at what it takes to play at the highest level in this league.”

DeAndre’ Bembry played well. He got the start and was 9-of-11 from the floor with 18 points and nine rebounds in 35 minutes. He was asked about Harden, too. Is the former 2018 MVP still trying to figure out when to shoot or pass without Irving around?

“Tonight, I guess if you want to say that for tonight,” admitted Bembry. “But James is great, man, he does everything for us. Obviously it wasn’t his best shooting night, but we all know he can score the ball, we all know he can pass the ball. He’s one of the smarter players on our team. It happens.”

It might be much ado about nothing if James Harden simply sunk a few more of his jump shots or the team had fewer turnovers. But given the inconsistency in his game, given the fact that he is playing more of a point guard role than he has used to in the past, given Irving’s absence, it does feel like a situation to monitor. The Nets had 20 turnovers and that really cost them the game.

Simply put, The Beard has to be better.