Nets 112, Timberwolves 107: James Harden Ties Franchise Record with 12th Triple-Double of Season

Brooklyn’s 112-107 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Barclays Center on Monday night looked a lot like last Friday’s win over the Detroit Pistons, which looked a lot like more than a few of the Nets’ wins since they got back from the All-Star break — surviving down the stretch.

They’ve gotten there in different ways. Like Friday night, they again let a late lead slip away — up 10 with under four minutes to go before the Timberwolves cut it to a point. But it keeps coming up the same way as well, with a W.

All eight of Brooklyn’s wins since the break have been within five points in the final five minutes — the NBA’s statistical definition of a clutch game. They’re also unbeaten in such games during that span, contributing to Brooklyn’s league-leading 21 clutch wins in 28 games — the second-most in the league — and a .750 winning percentage that also ranks first.

“It’s a tricky balance because we’re playing for something bigger than just regular-season wins,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “So we want to set a standard where our performances are pushing us to improve. Lately, we haven’t had that. That’s just part of the deal. That’s normal and natural for teams to go through stages like that. We also have to be patient. We have to push hard but also give them the chance to come through this and do whatever we can to help them, guide them. Our guys have been great. We’re really proud of the way they’ve played and the effort they have given this year. It’s just a matter of trying to help and guide them to get it back toward where we know they’re capable of playing.”

The Wolves cut Brooklyn’s 108-98 lead to a point with 58.6 seconds remaining, but the Nets didn’t allow another basket as James Harden and Kyrie Irving closed the game out at the line, making two free throws apiece in the final 14 seconds.

That delivered the Nets’ 18th win in their last 21 games as they improved to 32-15, a half-game out of first place in the Eastern Conference.

Harden posted his 12th triple-double in 32 games as a Net with 38 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds — tying Jason Kidd’s franchise record for triple-doubles in a season, accomplished twice.

Irving returned after missing Brooklyn’s last three games and made his first six shots on the way to 27 points and seven rebounds. Jeff Green, Bruce Brown, and DeAndre Jordan scored 10 points each, with Brown adding five assists and five rebounds. Blake Griffin had six rebounds and five assists, with the Nets a team-high plus-13 in his 18 minutes.

Irving’s incendiary start had Brooklyn up 30-20 eight minutes into the game, with half of that total on Irving’s ledger — 15 points on perfect shooting. The Nets shot 16-for-23 (69.6 percent) and made 4-of-6 3-pointers in the first quarter, racking up 13 assists on their 16 made shots.

They led 37-25 going into the second quarter and quickly pushed that to a 17-point lead. But the hot shooting cooled off from there, the Wolves quickly cut the lead to six, and continued to stick around to the end.

“Anytime an opposing team comes in here or we’re on the road, we feel like we're gonna get their best shot despite their record,” said Irving. “So just feel like we couldn't get control of the pace of the game tonight. They were crashing the offensive glass, doing little things tonight, which kept them in the game. So a few mistakes on our end that I feel like we can clean up. I think we talked about in the locker room as a group. Just watch film tomorrow see where we can get better. These games are coming quick, so we'll take the win and you know see what we can learn.”

While the Nets were up 61-52 at halftime, Minnesota was back within four points late in the third quarter before the Nets closed with a 9-2 run. Irving hit an elbow jumper and Nic Claxton dunked home a feed from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot off a loose ball. Griffin finished off the roll from Harden for a three-point play, and Harden’s drive made it 87-77 Brooklyn going into the fourth quarter.

With a six-point lead in the fourth quarter, Harden hit a 3-pointer and Irving scored in the lane for a 103-92 lead. The Wolves cut that back down to four, but Harden answered again with another 3-pointer for a 106-96 lead with 3:50 to go. Three minutes later though, it was a one-point game.

“We’d find a little separation and we couldn’t turn it up a notch to put ‘em away,” said Nash. “In this league, especially a team like that that hasn’t won a lot of games playing against a team that’s towards the top of the conference, once they get a sniff that they’re still in this thing late, they have no pressure, nothing to lose, they’re NBA guys, and you’re hanging on for dear life. Not a great performance. A win is a win. We found a way to win it in the end but we’ve got a lot to improve upon. We just had a pretty poor patch recently with our play and not at our best.”