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.
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 pic.twitter.com/JMlhUcq2AX
NBA TV @NBATV
Mills steal ➡️ Harden assist ➡️ Bembry dunk pic.twitter.com/xjiPNBpFuI
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.
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. pic.twitter.com/8rXM5tJnOH
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.
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.