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James Harden Notches Triple-Double Against Detroit

Harden ties Larry Bird for seventh on all-time triple-double list

After breaking out for 29 points against Indiana on Friday night, James Harden followed up with a triple-double in Sunday’s 117-91 win over the Detroit Pistons at Barclays Center. It was the 59th triple-double of Harden’s career, tying him with Larry Bird for seventh on the all-time list, and his first of the season after he had recorded 12 in just 36 games with Brooklyn last season.

Over the Nets’ first five games, Harden had averaged 16.6 points while shooting 35.9 percent overall and 33.3 percent from 3-point range, but still showing the all-around contributions that have elevated him on that triple-double list with 8.0 assists and 7.0 rebounds per game.

Against the Pacers, Harden delivered a vintage game, adding eight assists and eight rebounds to his 29 points, making 3-of-6 3-pointers, and getting to the line to make 16-of-19 free throws. In finishing with 18 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds against Detroit, Harden shot 6-of-9 overall and made 4-of-7 3-pointers.

“I’m just playing,” said Harden. “I think the confidence and just my rhythm and all that is coming back simultaneously together. It just feels much much better. I kind of knew that I was going to have a slow start because I wasn’t playing a lot but I knew the work was going to catch up and ultimately I was going to get back to where I need to be. Game by game, I’m just feeling better. More confident, extra pep in my step. Just overall much better.”

After Harden reinjured his hamstring in Game 1 of the playoff series against Milwaukee, he spent the summer focusing on rehab. Nets head coach Steve Nash has noted that, going back to when Harden initially strained his hamstring at the end of March, it all added up to very little court time over a six-month stretch before the Nets reconvened for training camp at the end of September.

“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 outfake people all the time,” said Nash before Sunday’s game. “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.”

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“I just feel more free,” said Harden. “My body has allowed me to do things that it is used to doing. Earlier and later in the season, I was relying on my IQ a lot and I feel like now, just being aggressive, being assertive and IQ is just automatically going to be there. Whether it is getting to the basket, whether it is coming off pick and roll and being aggressive, whether it is isolation and being aggressive and taking what the defense gives me, don’t overthink the game. Just go out there and be myself.”

In a game in which the Nets set a franchise record in shooting 65.3 percent from the field, there weren’t many dangerous moments against the Pistons, but Harden made sure to thwart one possible inflection point late in the third quarter.

After Kevin Durant’s ejection, the Pistons followed two free throws with a 3-pointer to cut Brooklyn’s lead to 85-72 with 3:14 to go in the quarter.

Harden keyed the 11-0 Nets run that followed with assists on five consecutive Brooklyn baskets — twice finding a cutting DeAndre’ Bembry, setting up jumpers from Patty Mills and LaMarcus Aldridge, and an interior finish from Aldridge. That expanded the Brooklyn lead to 24 points in the final seconds of the quarter.

“It was important that we continue to show the impetus and the willingness to try to be attack-minded and do the right things,” said Nash. “I thought James was great. He led us in that stretch, being aggressive, making the right decisions, protecting the ball, and that was the pivotal stretch to make sure we could win tonight.”

So as the Nets wrap up their six-game homestand against Atlanta on Wednesday, Harden looks like Harden again … not that he ever looked that far away from form to Kevin Durant.

“I feel like he was in good shape when we came into camp working out with him this summer,” said Durant. “I felt like he looked good to me. I think it’s a matter of getting comfortable with the NBA game again, the physicality, the quickness of the game. We all have an adjustment period when we come back from the offseason of playing the NBA style of basketball. It’s always evolving. It’s so fast, so quick. It may take us some time, all of us, mentally, all players to figure out what that bump and grind is like again. It usually takes a few games but you start to see it around the league everybody getting more and more comfortable with the style of play.”

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