Sunday’s win in Detroit was the first game James Harden has missed this season. The veteran star is logging 36.2 minutes, and averaged over 40 in the first three games of the trip, prompting coach Steve Nash to finally rest him.
“Yeah, he was open to it. He had a heavy stretch of games and we’re gonna try to steal some games for these guys here and there. And fortunately, he was open enough for [this] to be the night,” Nash said. “So we’ll miss him [Sunday] but it’s important and it pays this forward hopefully to the end of the season.”
The Nets shot just 38.5 percent in the first half, and had 10 turnovers in the third quarter. It took a Herculean 51-point effort from Kevin Durant for them to pull out a win.
It was Durant’s eighth career 50-plus point game, and his first for the Nets. It also surpassed Stephen Curry’s 50-point outing for the highest-scoring game in the league this season. Curry is arguably Durant’s stiffest competition for MVP.
Durant was fined $25,000 for his interaction with a fan Friday in Atlanta.
The Nets improved to 11-3 away from Barclays Center, the best road record in the league. It’s the first time in franchise history they have ever been eight games over .500 on the road.
Cam Thomas had a strong night with 13 points off the bench on 6-for-11 shooting. He was especially effective on the court, and after being a minus-22 Wednesday in Houston, the rookie followed up his plus-16 against the Hawks with Sunday’s game and career-high plus-27.
“It was good. He was a little more aggressive. He got some looks. He pulled up on the break for 3, for 2. Got to his spot, was confident. That’s the most important thing,” Nash said. “When he makes good decisions when to get to his spot, when to shoot and he’s confident, he’s a very good scorer.”
Nic Claxton had just two points and two rebounds, but was stellar defensively and was a plus-19 in 23 minutes. He played the entire fourth quarter and was a plus-17 in the final period, with his conditioning — which the Nets readily admit is an issue — slowly and steadily improving.
“He’s trending in the right direction. I don’t know that I’d say he’s there yet, but I’d say he’s definitely improving,” Nash said. “That’s a positive sign. If he continues to trend in that direction, [that’s big].
“It’s not just about how much you play: It’s about how hard and effective you play in the minutes you play. He can get to a place where his stretches don’t decline the longer they go. But he’s able to continue to perform throughout those stretches; that’s probably the next step. Then we’ll see about rotations and matchups and when he’s needed for longer stretches and can he handle that.”
Paul Millsap , who missed the game for personal reasons, is expected to rejoin the team Monday.