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James Harden Posts 39 Points, 15 Assists to Lead Nets to Win over Clippers

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 28, 2021

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The Brooklyn Nets continued their hot streak Monday, earning a 124-108 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Nets exploded for 71 points in the first half to take a 16-point lead into the break. Los Angeles managed to trim Brooklyn's lead to 10 points midway through the third quarter, but by the time the frame ended, the Clippers' deficit had swelled to 20 points.

L.A. didn't let the contest hover into blowout territory for too long but couldn't string together enough defensive stops to generate much drama in the second half. 

The Nets shot 56.8 percent from the field and owned a 74-38 edge in points in the paint.

Brooklyn has now won six of its last seven games to maintain its position atop the Eastern Conference.

The Clippers are headed in the opposite direction, having now dropped five of its last six.


Notable Performers

James Harden, SG, Nets: 39 points (15-25 FG; 4-9 3PT), eight rebounds, 15 assists, two steals

Patty Mills, PG, Nets: 18 points (6-14 FG; 6-13 3PT), three rebounds, two assists, one steal

Marcus Morris Sr., SF, Clippers: 24 points, (6-13 FG; 4-7 3PT), five rebounds, six assists

Eric Bledsoe, SG, Clippers: 15 points (5-12 FG; 3-7 3PT), two rebounds, six assists, one steal


Harden Shoulders Load for Depleted Nets

With the Omicron variant creating a surge in new cases of COVID-19, few NBA teams have been impacted more than the Nets. Brooklyn remains without the services of LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who are in the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Fresh off a 36-point triple-double on Christmas Day in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers, James Harden was once again the engine for the Nets offense. 

The nine-time All-Star had a sluggish start to the season but appears to be rounding nicely into form. He led the way Monday night as both a scorer and facilitator.

Brooklyn Nets @BrooklynNets

Can't stop the beard <a href="https://t.co/JMlhUcq2AX">pic.twitter.com/JMlhUcq2AX</a>

NBA TV @NBATV

Mills steal ➡️ Harden assist ➡️ Bembry dunk <a href="https://t.co/xjiPNBpFuI">pic.twitter.com/xjiPNBpFuI</a>

Harden was the kind of singular star the shorthanded Clippers lack at the moment and thus had no answer for.

Andrew Greif @AndrewGreif

Just like last night against Denver, the Clippers are facing an opponent with a ravaged roster but still featuring the one guy who can make all of the difference. Just like Jokic last night, James Harden has been so hard to guard, with 22 first-half points to go with 8 assists.

As much as the spotlight shined on Brooklyn's best player, this was a strong collective effort from the Nets. Patty Mills, Nic Claxton and DeAndre' Bembry all supplemented Harden nicely in the starting rotation.

When Brooklyn cruises to a dominant victory without Durant and Irving, it bolsters the team's championship credentials.

Sam Quinn @SamQuinnCBS

Two huge games from James Harden in a row after coming out of the protocols and the Nets are about to move to 23-9 despite dealing with some of the most injuries/protocols/general absences in basketball. The Nets are a special team even beyond their starpower.


Clippers' Misery Continues

Kawhi Leonard is still recovering from ACL surgery and has yet to make his 2021-22 debut. Paul George is out for at least three to four weeks after tearing the UCL in his right elbow. Even though they're still above a play-in tournament position, the Clippers' outlook isn't promising at the moment.

Losses like the one Los Angeles experienced Monday are bound to happen on occasion until George returns.

The extent to which the Clippers were a defensive sieve around the basket was surprising, though. They have held opponents to an NBA-best 58.6 percent shooting on shots inside six feet entering tonight, per NBA.com.

Brooklyn—thanks in part to Harden—though, didn't have much trouble getting what it wanted in the paint.

Farbod Esnaashari @Farbod_E

The Brooklyn Nets are absolutely DESTROYING the Clippers inside of the paint. They're shooting 61% from the field, and look at the reason why. <a href="https://t.co/8rXM5tJnOH">pic.twitter.com/8rXM5tJnOH</a>

Law Murray 🎄 @LawMurrayTheNU

When it comes down to it, Nets just HIT the Clippers in the mouth repeatedly. Especially in second quarter, where Nets made all 10 of their shots in the paint while Clippers missed 7 of their 11 inside attempts.<br><br>Any improvement from LA tonight will have to start inside.

Marcus Morris Sr. was a standout performer in a losing effort. That provides a sliver of hope given the extent o which he'll have to step up for the next month and change.

Andrew Greif @AndrewGreif

imo, if you're the Clippers, no takeaway is more important from tonight no matter what happens with the result than how Marcus Morris Sr. looks. The offense will hinge on him to a sizable degree over the next month.

Bally Sports San Diego @BallySportsSD

.<a href="https://twitter.com/MookMorris2?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MookMorris2</a> really is back🔥<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HoneyHighlight?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HoneyHighlight</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/LAClippers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@LAClippers</a> <br><br>🎥: <a href="https://twitter.com/honey?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@honey</a> <a href="https://t.co/zHRL84ZVUR">pic.twitter.com/zHRL84ZVUR</a>


What's Next?

The Clippers hit the road Wednesday against the Boston Celtics, the first of three straight games away from crypto.com Arena. The Nets begin a three-game homestand Thursday against the Philadelphia 76ers.

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