The Nets rose from a demoralizing relegation loss to NBA-best Golden State with a win over the Cavaliers in the second half of a home back-to-back on Wednesday. It was so far good.
But the fact is that the Nets (10-5) are in a tough stretch of their schedule. They were to play their ninth game in 15 nights against Magic (4-11) on Friday night at the Barclays Center. Then they get two days off before a Monday night game in Cleveland.
“I knew we played a lot, but that’s probably some of what they gave us,” James Harden said of the NBA schedule. “It’s clear, Joe [Harris] goes down with an ankle sprain and [Paul Millsap] with his family it has been difficult just because we are limited by bodies.
“When we get really good starts and run really good races, it’s more important to end the fights the right way so we can get our proper rest when needed.”
Harris is expected to miss a few more fights. There is no timetable for the return of Millsap, who has played limited minutes despite his All-Star resume.
For the Nets, it still comes down to Harden and Kevin Durant, the two superstars eligible to play on a list missing Kyrie Irving, who is out because he has not complied with New York City’s vaccine mandate.
Harden had to laugh after a 37-minute outing against the Cavaliers, which was only his fourth highest score this season.
“You play all the time,” Harden said. “I think if Kevin or I do not play, it’s not like we’re already down with the numbers … We just have to keep fighting, man. Find ways to get away with victories, find ways to keep improving at both ends of the ball.
“It’s a long season. There will be a lot of ups and downs, but I feel like we’re a bit in a funk right now in a sense of everything. But we win and keep going.”
Nash was asked if the challenge at this point in a grueling schedule is mental or physical, and he boiled it down. “It’s both,” he said.
At the same time. The nets with Durant and Harden have enough firepower to win in a tough schedule. The 33-year-old Durant averages 28.6 points, the third-best in his career and second in the NBA this season, and his 34.7 minutes per game. fight is only the eighth most in his career.
The 32-year-old Harden has played 34.4 minutes per game, but it is number 12 in his 13-year career and he shoots career-high 39.5% from three-point range. On the other hand, his 20.3 scoring average is only number 10 in his career, and his 4.9 turnovers are third-worst in his career.
Harden was happy that the Nets returned to beat the Cavaliers after being blown out of Golden State the previous night, but he blamed the Nets for a bad third quarter that left the Cavs back in the game.
“Second half, we just had a meltdown,” Harden said. “They spent a lot, they made shots. The good thing is that we come away with the victory and we just have to keep improving. No excuses.
“We just have to find out what worked, what has gone well for us and continue to do it to the best of our ability. It was not a good show for four quarters, but we came away with the victory and we just have to stay keep pushing forward. “