Nets see James Harden, Kyrie Irving building cohesion on floor together

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Garrett Stepien
·2 min read
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Kyrie Irving hugs James Harden
Kyrie Irving hugs James Harden

Nets guards James Harden and Kyrie Irving have only been active together for six games but already appear to be finding balance between each other. Friday's 147-125 win at the Oklahoma City Thunder served a latest example as the duo, playing without Kevin Durant, combined for 50 points on 19-of-30 shooting (63.3%) and 18 assists.

"I never said how long the process is going to take, but Kai is special," Harden said with a laugh after the game. "He got it going in that third quarter and we just wanted him to keep going until he missed -- and even when he missed, keep going again, but we've just got to find that balance of when to be aggressive and when to make plays.

"And I think, even with our aggressiveness, we're still playmakers. I think, the course of the game, we did a good job of getting our guys involved but then being aggressive and scoring the ball as well. And nothing really changes, even when KD is in the lineup as well."

Harden made a splash alongside Durant, but without Irving, in his initial two games -- the Nets' wins over the Orlando Magic (122-115, Jan. 16) and Milwaukee Bucks (125-123, Jan. 18). After a feeling-out process in the subsequent three games, he has found a groove on the floor with Irving, who are respectively averaging 21.5 and 21.7 points since taking the floor together Jan. 20 at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"They were both incredible," said head coach Steve Nash. "James manages the game so well -- spreads the floor, scores, assists, rebounds, gets his hands on ball defensively -- and Kyrie was just incredible shotmaking. I mean, he's able to make some amazing plays with the basketball and such a threat out there and so difficult for defenses to contain."

Harden has a left thigh injury, Brooklyn announced Saturday, putting his status for Sunday's 2 p.m. road game against the Washington Wizards (3-12) in question. But the Nets (13-8), who dropped a single-game franchise-record 147 points against the Thunder (8-10), are in good hands from an offensive standpoint.

"Just taking it day by day -- I'm always going to say that I won't take any day for granted," Irving said. "This doesn't happen often in history where you have this group together at this point. Some of the guys were starters last year in their respective teams and 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 wanted to continue to push each other and hold each other accountable."