Reggie Miller reminded James Harden that he was a former MVP. Then the Nets star went out and played like it.
And the Knicks paid the price.
Harden’s dominance helped the Nets eke out a 112-110 victory before a sellout crowd of 18,081 at Barclays Center.
Coming off a horrible 4-of-15 shooting, seven-turnover performance in Saturday’s loss to Phoenix, Harden admitted he’s been struggling trying to strike a balance between scoring and facilitating with All-Star Kyrie Irving out.
Miller talked with Harden before Tuesday’s game, reminding him he’s a former MVP. “What do you mean you don’t know when to score and when to pass?” the Hall of Famer-turned-TNT broadcaster asked. “You never had this problem in Houston?”
Whatever Miller said worked. Harden had 34 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. He had 15 points in the first quarter and 28 by intermission, crediting Miller — among the greatest Knick-killers ever — with his outburst.
“Yeah, it was definitely that. Reggie is the one that got me going. He’s got me going for sure,” Harden said. “But yeah, it was just ultimate confidence, the best-player-in-the-league type of mindset. That was motivation before the game, something I needed.”
Harden even had a vicious follow dunk in a 14-0 run to start the third quarter, with a flex and celebratory roar that told the tale of this game.
“That might have been my first [follow dunk] of my career, 19 years, so I had to let it out,” Harden said. “It wasn’t that great when I looked at the highlight, but it felt great. That’s all that matters.”
Kevin Durant came into Tuesday’s game against the Knicks averaging 35.6 minutes. That’s 2.5 more minutes than he logged last season, and his most since 2015-16 when he was just 27-years-old with two healthy Achilles’ tendons.
Moreover, Durant has often been tasked with guarding the opponents’ top forward threat, and has been playing back-to-backs, two things the Nets spared him from last season. Nash and the performance team know they’ll have to look for spots to try to spell him.
“I’m a basketball player. I enjoy to play. I wanna play for 48 minutes. That’s just what it is,” Durant said.
The Nets sent Nic Claxton down to practice with Long Island, then recalled the young big as well as rookie first-round pick Day’Ron Sharpe from the G League before the game.