The Brooklyn Nets headed to AT&T Center to  battle the San Antonio Spurs. With trade season in full swing, most of the Nets should feel reasonably safe. Nic Claxton is the name who has been mentioned the most. But the big three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden certainly aren't going anywhere, at least before that Feb. 10 deadline.

Durant is out, he missed his third consecutive game with an MCL sprain which figures to keep the league's leading scorer out until the All-Star break at least. That set the table for the team's Big 2 of James Harden and Kyrie Irving to go to work seeking a big road win.

Irving finished with 24 points, to go with 4 dimes and 3 rebounds. But James Harden went totally insane. The Beard, who played the best years of his career in nearby Houston, finished with 37 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. He even threw down a dunk just to remind his teammates he can still do that.

“They don't think I can't dunk no more, I don't wanna bring it out,” joked the three time scoring champ after the 117-102 win.

After the game, Kyrie Irving took the time to celebrate his superstar teammate, after his monster 30-plus point triple-double performance.

“I mean he makes the game so much easier for everyone else,” said Irving of Harden. “So I was just trying to get out of his way, and then when I came to the bench I felt like I took some shots that were just- they just weren't in alignment, or just I didn't get to my spots, as easy as I wanted to and the bench was as supportive as we've ever been. They're just like ‘it's gonna come, it's gonna come.' And then James just kinda yelled at me, it's not a negative yell, but he yelled at me he's like ‘Ky, get the f–n ball!'”

It's a pretty funny contrast, the always supportive bench reminding Kyrie to be patient, his offense is going to come. Textbook leadership. Then on the other hand you have Harden, completely in the zone himself, tearing the Spurs apart, screaming with a raspy voice (if you trust Irving's impersonation skills) “Ky, get the f–n ball!”

Harden didn't think his teammate needed to take the patient approach. The Beard expected Irving to just take over and dominate. After the game, coach Steve Nash described his thunder and lightning backdoor using the words electric (for Harden) and assassin (for Irving). Who are we to argue?

But Harden's tough-love leadership seemed to work. “I kinda took that personal,” admitted Irving, “and just wanted to come out in the fourth quarter with an aggressive mindset and just play off the flow of the offense.”

Kyrie went on to drop 15 of his 24 in the fourth to help the Nets blow the doors off the Spurs.


After the game reporters asked Harden if this had been a break through for his teammate.

“Fo sho, it was a break through. He's capable of doing that man at any moment, at any point of the game, and that's one of the reasons why we need him every single game because he's able to do that, especially everything thing that's going on with our team….”

At one point, Harden hit a dagger shot then at the other end, he geared up to shoot towards the wrong hoop during a timeout. Kyrie made a leaping effort to stop him and the two wound up hugging on the sidelines, minutes before the win was in hand.

These weren't so much scary times as playful times. That's a product of winning.

Still, it's an at once obvious yet controversial point for Harden make. If the Nets “obviously” need Irving out there “every single game,” then that could be construed as they're not currently equipped to win the championship since Kyrie is only available for half of the games due to his vaccination status. It did not seem like Harden was making that point, specifically, but you can decipher his words however you like.

Harden was asked a couple weeks ago if he tells Kyrie to get the vaccine because the team needs him. “He knows that, he knows that, he knows that, he knows that,” said The Beard. Does Harden tell Irving to get vaccinated? “Nah,” said Harden.

Irving addressed the topic by talking about how he does not want to bring science into the equation. We talked more about this theme in the latest Nothing but Nets pod.

With Durant out for the foreseeable future, the Nets will turn to the superstar backcourt of Irving and Harden. You can debate where they stack up vs. duos like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Chris Paul and Devin Booker, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. But when these two are both available and healthy, there aren't many who do it better. And unlike CP3 and Book, Harden and Irving have plenty more room to grow as they develop chemistry. You get the sense Kevin Durant enjoyed watching this one.