Saying this may sound like a broken record at this point, but James Harden is going to have to step up his game with the Brooklyn Nets. Fans have been waiting patiently for more than a quarter of the season now, but there’s been no real change in Harden’s game.
The way that he performed last Tuesday night in a 112-110 win over the Knicks is the player that he needs to always be. Harden was dominant from start to finish and shot a season-high 55% from the floor for a team-high 34 points. He gave hope that maybe — just maybe — he was returning to form.
However, it was short-lived. This past weekend, the Nets beat the Timberwolves on Friday, but then turned around and lost to the Bulls on Saturday. Harden’s performance in both games was a cause for concern. He scored 20 points against Minnesota (4-of-11) and 14 (5-of-21) against Chicago.
Kevin Durant’s proven he can win games singlehandedly for Brooklyn, but he needs Harden to be playing at a similar intensity. How long will this continue for Harden? Unfortunately, his inconsistency isn’t making it seem like he’s going to find a way out of his slump anytime soon.
3 reasons why James Harden is struggling for the Brooklyn Nets
3. Kevin Durant
How in the world is Durant any sort of a problem here? He’s the reason why the Nets are in first in the East, so why is Harden’s play his fault?
At least KD’s used to taking the blame, he did just that following the Nets’ loss to the Bulls on Saturday. It’s not Durant’s fault that Harden couldn’t finish at the rim and didn’t contribute the way he should’ve on the offensive end, but Harden’s played much better whenever KD’s either isn’t on the floor or has struggled.
Harden performed extremely well against New York. That was so noticeable because it was one of Durant’s worst outings of the year. KD shot 9-of-23 from the field (0-of-5 from the 3-point line) for 27 points. That being a bad game for Durant says a lot about the player that he is, considering that Harden’s only scored 27+ points six times this season.
When KD sat out with a sore shoulder against Orlando on Nov. 19, Harden scored 36 points in 41 minutes. The most he’s scored in a game this year is 39.
Without Durant, the spotlight was on Harden. And although he shot 28% from the field that game, it seemed like at least part of his confidence returned. Harden was able to take over the game in a similar way he’s done in the past.
For Brooklyn to be successful, it’s going to take both KD and Harden. The Nets can’t afford for Durant’s game to take a dip, but they also can’t afford to not have Harden at his best for much longer.
The two played together in Oklahoma City and reunited in Brooklyn. The chemistry is there, but Harden needs to break through the funk that he’s in. Whenever this duo gets into a groove, the Nets are going to look like the team that was named as the preseason title favorites.