California Sports

Nets beat Clippers 124-108 as Harden scored 39

James Harden scored 39 to help the Brooklyn Nets beat the Los Angeles Clippers 124-108 on Monday night in a matchup of short-handed teams. In his second game after his return, he also produced a season-best 15 assists.

Harden had eight rebounds but missed a second straight triple-double.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “Against the Lakers and tonight, he was just clinical. If he plays like that, we’ll be very difficult to beat.”

Harden produced 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 122-115 win against the LeBron James led Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas in the Nets’ first game after three straight postponements due to the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Harden said he used his time at home when he entered the COVID-19 health and safety protocols to lift weights and do cardio.

“That protocol could have went two ways and I just overly locked into my body and my eating,” Harden said. “When you prepare yourself to be great, there’s no surprise.”

The Nets improved their NBA-best road mark to 13-3 with their win at Los Angeles.

“Confidence is through the roof,” Harden said.

A game of depleted teams

Due to injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic, a total of 15 players were missing from both teams. Seven Nets players were inside the protocols, including NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

It turned out that Harden and the rest of the Nets were enough. Four Nets players scored in double figures, including Patty Mills, who had 18 points and made six 3-pointers and Nic Claxton, who tied his career-high with 18 points.

“Our confidence level for our bench is high,” Harden said. “They can come in and impact the game. We can find different ways to win.”

Harden led the drives inside, allowing the Nets to assert dominance over the Clippers in the paint with a 74-38 edge.

“He picked us apart, everything we did,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.

The Clippers themselves were without superstars Paul George, who is expected to be out up to a month due to a torn ligament in his right elbow, and Kawhi Leonard, who is still recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery.

Leading the CLippers was Marcus Morris who scored a season-high-tying 24 points in his first game in nearly two weeks after being in the protocols, while Eric Bledsoe added 15 points.

Harden entered the NBA history book when he subjugated the Clippers. His 10th assist in the game was the 6,000th of his career, making him the 10th player in the history of the game to have produced 20,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists. Among the other players on the list are the late Kobe Bryant, James, Chris Paul, Oscar Robertson, and current Clippers executive Jerry West.

Harden could not take compliments when reporters told him about his achievements after the game. He instead downplayed them, saying: “Just want to win, try to find ways to impact the game. That’s it.”

Between games, Harden went back to Artesia High in nearby Lakewood where he led his alma mater to two state championships.

“That was where I fell in love with the game of basketball,” he said. “High school is where I learned how to work hard and actually train and stay in the gym and find things I can get better at in basketball.”

The Nets will host Philadelphia on Thursday to open a three-game homestand.