In the 10 games since James Harden became a Brooklyn Net, forming an explosive offensive trio with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets have posted an offensive efficiency of 121 points per 100 possessions, a rate higher than the 115.8 the Dallas Mavericks posted last season in setting an NBA record.
Maybe the thing that should worry the rest of the league is that the Nets have done this while having that trio together for only half of those games, and they may just be getting started getting into a rhythm.
The Nets have shot 57 percent from the field in each of their last three games, even without Durant playing last Friday or Harden on Sunday — scoring 147 and 146 points respectively in those two games. With the big three back together on Tuesday, Brooklyn beat the league-leading Clippers, 124-120 at Barclays Center behind an offensive performance that hints at the power for Durant, Irving, and Harden together.
They combined to score 90 points — including 21 of Brooklyn’s final 23 — while shooting a combined 64.7 percent (33-for-51).
Afterwards, Irving conceded that sometimes, he even gets caught up in watching the show himself, so electric is the talent around him.
“They’re that great,” said Irving. “It’s pretty easy just to kind of sit there and be a fan of those guys, and it’s just such a deep admiration that we’ve had since we were kids growing up in the same high school classes, or them above me. I’ve looked up to them for so long, now to be teammates with them, sometimes you can get caught watching. It’s OK. That’s greatness right there.”
Irving, by the way, was in the middle of his own 39-point night, mixing in twisting, physics-defying layups with 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point range while making 15-of-23 shots overall.
Durant made 9-of-11 shots — he and Irving are both shooting 53 percent from the field for the season — and scored 28 points while grabbing nine rebounds, while Harden posted his fourth double-double in nine games as a Net with 23 points, 14 assists, and 11 rebounds. Harden has had at least a double-double in eight of his games for Brooklyn, he’s averaging 12.0 assists as a Net, and he leads the league overall with 11.2 assists per game.
“As we continue to progress, the beautiful thing is that we’re interchangeable,” said Irving. “So some nights, one of us can have a big night, the other guy can have multiple assists, multiple rebounds and like I said, we just want to complement each other well as a group. I don’t want to get too stuck on talking about us three, but we do lead this group with other guys.”
There’s also a trickle-down effect from the attention Durant, Irving, and Harden draw. Joe Harris is averaging 6.9 3-point attempts per game, a full attempt more than his previous career high of 5.9 from last season. Before Harden’s arrival, though, Harris was averaging 5.8 attempts per game, right in line with last season. In 10 games since the trade, he’s firing off 8.2 per game. On Sunday against Washington, Harris made a career-high eight threes while matching his career high with 30 points. For the full season, he’s shooting 48.7 percent from 3-point range, higher than his league-leading career high of 47.4 from 2018-19.
“We don’t want it to just be about us,” said Irving. “I’ll always make that clear. We have other guys in our locker room that collectively give something to every single game, and we want that continued effort, but obviously the demand is going to be primarily on us on the offensive end, and we’ve got to put guys in the right spots, including each other. It’s great to have Kevin Durant yell at you to get in the right spot, or have James Harden give you a cue with his eyes to be in the right spot because they’re so great. So sometimes you get caught watching, and we’ve just got to stay active and do the little things for those guys to complement them and that goes back with sacrifice and compromise, all of us. Sometimes it’s not going to be a 39-point night for me, and I’m OK with that.”
Over Brooklyn’s last 10 games, Durant is averaging 32.3 points, Irving 29.4 and Harden 24.1. It’s a combination of scoring talent likely unparalleled in NBA history, and the players making it happen want to appreciate the moment.
“Just taking it day by day,” said Irving after the Nets put up a franchise-record 147 points on Friday. “I'm always going to say that I won't take anything for granted. It doesn't happen often in history where you have this group together at this point. Some of the guys were starters last year on their respective teams, other guys are MVP candidates and to have all of that collective talent and not get the most out of it, we'd be doing ourselves a disservice so we just want to continue to just push each other and hold each other accountable.”