James Harden on Return to Form: 'Not to Brag ... but I'm Really Good at This Game'May 13, 2021
Brooklyn Nets star James Harden wasn't surprised at his strong return to the lineup after missing 20 of the team's last 21 games with a hamstring injury.
Harden dropped 18 points with 11 assists and seven rebounds through 26 minutes on the floor in Brooklyn's 128-116 defeat of the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
"I study the game. I'm very unselfish," he told reporters after the win. "I take the game and I play it the right way every single night. So I don't try to do anything that I can't do or anything that doesn't benefit our team."
Harden played on a minutes restriction and didn't start, marking the first time since April 2012 that the star came off of the bench in a regular-season game (h/t Malika Andrews of ESPN).
Entering Wednesday, he hadn't played since April 5, missing 18 straight games. He suffered a setback in his recovery on April 19 and was ruled out indefinitely.
The former Houston Rockets star joined the Nets to form a Big Three in January, but the trio wasn't in action on Wednesday since Kyrie Irving was out with a facial contusion. Kevin Durant scored 14 points and tacked on seven rebounds and seven assists.
Harden, Irving and Durant have played in just seven games together this season, and the Nets have played just 38 with two of the three. Head coach Steve Nash told reporters he didn't necessarily view it as a problem.
"If they can form any sort of cohesion or speed up that process, that's great," Nash said. "But we recognize there's no perfect solution here. They're not going to be totally formed and cohesive on one or two games."
And it hasn't been a problem for Brooklyn. The Nets are 46-24, sitting one-and-a-half games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Eastern Conference with two games left on the schedule.