The most encouraging signs for the Brooklyn Nets on Friday were James Harden resembling his usual self and LaMarcus Aldridge emerging as a third scoring option.
While it was not a complete masterpiece, the performances by Harden and Aldridge were enough for the Nets, who attempt to replicate them and get consecutive wins for the first time this season Sunday night when they host the Detroit Pistons.
Brooklyn is seeking its first winning streak after shaking off a 16-point deficit early in the second quarter in its 105-98 win over the visiting Indiana Pacers. The win occurred when Kevin Durant was held to a season-low 22 points, but the Nets got it done thanks to the efforts of Harden and Aldridge.
Harden is still working his way back from a hamstring injury he suffered in the opening minute of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks. He entered Friday averaging 16.6 points on 35.9 percent shooting and then scored 29 points by hitting 5 of 11 shots and 16 of 19 free throws in 35 minutes.
“I keep saying it — every single game, I feel good, I feel better today, I continue to work on off days and non-game days, and on game days continue to get to the basket and shoot my shots,” Harden said.
“Nothing’s gonna change. Eventually things are gonna happen where it’s consistent and I’m out there playing (like) myself.”
Aldridge was an effective scoring option when he scored 23 points in a 114-109 win at Philadelphia on Oct. 22 and then totaled 15 points in his next two games. Against the Pacers, he helped the Nets in the second half by scoring 17 of his 21 points and hitting 10 of 16 shots, including several mid-range jumpers.
“He’s been doing it for so long, I’d think he has 10,000 jump shots to make 20,000 points,” Harden said of Aldridge. “But just a vet who’s been doing it a very, very long time. He’s very consistent.”
Detroit is hoping to start winning consistently after shooting 40 percent and ending its four-game losing streak with a 110-103 win over the visiting Orlando Magic on Saturday night. It might not be easy for the Pistons since they are starting a week with two games against Brooklyn sandwiched around home games against Milwaukee and Philadelphia.
Jerami Grant scored 22 points and Kelly Olynyk added 18 of Detroit’s 59 bench points to highlight the debut of top overall pick Cade Cunningham. Cunningham’s debut was delayed because of a sprained ankle that kept him out of preseason games, and he finished with two points and seven rebounds while being limited to 18:55.
“I thought it was a good night,” Cunningham said. “I wanted to make sure my ankle was good, and I was able to go out there and make some plays and grab some rebounds. Now I know I’m fine, so I can play free and easy moving forward.”
Cunningham played 14 of his minutes in the first half when he went 1 of 7, but it is unclear if he will play Sunday when the Pistons try to halt a four-game losing streak in Brooklyn.
“There’s no way you can sit out a month and come back 100 percent,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “I loved the way he played and the effort he gave us, but there was going to be rust.”
–Field Level Media