Much has been made about James Harden’s inability to drive. He had no such issues Sunday night.
Harden had 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in his best game of the season, helping the Nets snap a 10-game losing skid in Toronto with a 116-103 win. And his confidence in getting to the rim grew as the game went on.
“I thought in the first half he didn’t give himself enough credit,” coach Steve Nash said. “He had opportunities to attack more, and I tried to implore him to go and to be aggressive. In the second half he was excellent. This game, the Atlanta game, games where he gets to the paint he can really cause a lot of problems for the defense.”
That was made apparent by the fourth quarter, when Harden had 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting. He came into the game leading the league in turnovers after committing nine Friday night, but had just two Sunday.
“We talked about it at halftime. Kevin [Durant] talked to him about it: Just be aggressive. Let his aggressiveness going to the basket be the way he facilitates,” Blake Griffin said. “Sometimes he was like trying to facilitate a little too much too early. Which is never a bad thing, and he was getting us good shots. But when he’s aggressive, the defensive focus has to shift. He’s finding a great balance lately.”
Griffin had season-highs of 14 points and 11 rebounds. He was 4-for-6 from long range, tying his most 3-pointers as a Net.
The significance of being a Canadian coming back to coach in his home country for the first time wasn’t lost in Nash.
“That means a lot. This is a very special place for me,” Nash said. “Obviously Canada but Toronto, I’ve spent so much of my time here. I have so many close friends and relationships and memories in this city.
“I have a lot of admiration for the Raptors’ organization and [Toronto coach] Nick Nurse, so to get a win here is special for me. I think this is a really tough team here in Toronto and have great fans. Great place to play. For me, this is definitely a sweet one.”
The Nets play Monday in Chicago, the tail end of their second back-to-back. The Nets have a league-low 12 back-to-backs this season.
They’ve tried to spare Durant and Griffin in those spots. But Durant played both legs of their earlier back-to-back, and Griffin expects to play against the Bulls.
“I haven’t had any conversations about it, but I’m always anticipating to play unless they tell me otherwise,” Griffin said.
James Johnson was out with knee soreness.
Rookie first-round pick Cam Thomas poured in 35 points in his G-League debut with Long Island.