James Harden, Kyrie Irving Power Nets Past Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Clippers

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2021

Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden, left, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Perfect road trip achieved for the Brooklyn Nets.

Brooklyn completed its 5-0 road trip out west with a 112-108 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday at Staples Center. James Harden and Kyrie Irving led the way for the victors, who improved to 20-12 on the season with their sixth consecutive win.

While the guards spearheaded the victorious effort, DeAndre Jordan's tip-in with 11 seconds remaining put the Nets ahead for good.

Impressive showings from Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were not enough for the Clippers, who fell to 22-10 overall and just 1-2 in the last three games. Leonard had a chance to force overtime after Jordan's tip-in on the ensuing possession but was called for an offensive foul.

         

Notable Player Stats

  • James Harden, G, BKN: 37 PTS, 11 REB, 7 AST, 2 STL
  • Kyrie Irving, G, BKN: 28 PTS, 8 AST, 4 REB
  • DeAndre Jordan, C, BKN: 13 PTS, 11 REB, 4 BLK
  • Bruce Brown, G, BKN: 13 PTS, 8 REB, 4 STL
  • Paul George, F, LA: 34 PTS, 7 AST, 6 REB, 2 BLK
  • Kawhi Leonard, F, LA: 29 PTS, 13 REB, 3 AST
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Harden, Kyrie Power Nets to Another Road Win

Any road trip that features victories over the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers is impressive, and Brooklyn won the last three without Kevin Durant. Any lingering questions about Brooklyn's defense or even the fit with Irving and Harden sharing the ball have been drowned out by the sheer amount of offensive firepower on the floor.

The showdown with the Clippers represented yet another test against one of the best teams in the league, and Harden was immediately up for the challenge.

The seven-time All-NBA selection was the game's leading rebounder at halftime all while methodically picking apart the Clippers defense with floaters in traffic, outside shooting and the ability to facilitate while finding openings.

It wasn't just a solo effort, as Irving provided secondary scoring with many of the same tactics. 

Not even the Clippers' strong perimeter defense could keep the two Brooklyn guards from getting to whatever spot they wanted and dropping shots over any help that came their way. They also dished out dimes to the supporting cast as Bruce Brown shined in place of Durant with a willingness to battle on the offensive glass while scoring in the openings created by the guards.

Brooklyn had the answers even when the Clippers made a run and overcame a 15-point deficit in the fourth.

Harden drilled a clutch step-back three, Irving dished out head-turning assists to both Jordan and Joe Harris in the closing minutes, and all the attention they draw on the outside opened up the lane for Jordan to sneak in and make the biggest play of the game with the tip-in.

And it's just going to get better when Durant is on the floor.

            

Late Push Not Enough for Clippers

It will be hard for the Clippers to erase doubts about their championship chances after blowing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets last season, but back-to-back victories over the Utah Jazz and Nets would have been an impressive way to start.

Sunday's contest was just the second time both Leonard and George have been in the lineup together since Feb. 3, and they were dialed in from the start.

Leonard caught fire from deep and poured in 18 points in the first half. George exposed some of Brooklyn's perimeter defensive concerns and overpowered his way into the lane a number of times while keeping the offense afloat for stretches.

Frankly, Brooklyn's inability to stop Leonard and George from lighting up the scoreboard was the only reason the game stayed close with Harden and Irving dominating on the other end.

While the Nets' stars had help from the supporting cast with Jordan throwing down lobs and grabbing boards, Brown playing strong defense and scoring in the lane and Harris hitting multiple threes, Leonard and George did not.

Ivica Zubac was the only other Clipper to score in double figures, which made it all the more curious when George was on the bench for the final 2:50. Even without his running mate, Leonard scored six points in that final stretch and appeared primed to force overtime.

Until the officials called the questionable offensive foul on him with the game on the line.

         

What's Next?

Both teams are home Tuesday when the Clippers face the Washington Wizards and the Nets host the Sacramento Kings.