Meet ‘The Committee’ set to help Kevin Durant and James Harden

·4 min read

PHILADELPHIA — This is what “by committee” looks like.

Flying around the court to make plays on the defensive end. Double-teaming the workhorse before he realizes the help has arrived. Hitting timely buckets when your star has put the team on his back. Ultimately, doing what it takes to secure a win, no matter who’s available on your team.

The Nets did everything against the Sixers that they didn’t do in their blowout loss in the opener against the Bucks.

With no Kyrie Irving, and against the unmatchable Sixers big man Joel Embiid, the Nets passed their pop quiz with a 114-109 win on the road on Friday. The subject was chemistry, and make no mistake, the beginning of this season will be one big experiment.

An experiment the Nets are tackling as a unit. By committee.

“It’s not going to be pretty for a little while here,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said after his first win of the season. “We’ve just got to continue to fight and play for each other and figure out ways to compete and stay engaged while we figure out rotations and combinations and what we are all about.”

Project No. 1 is a developing situation: Who will step up to support Kevin Durant?

Durant recorded his 13th career triple double against the Sixers on Friday and dominated with 27 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists on the night. But as the Nets seeped into an early 14-point deficit, it was clear he couldn’t do it just by himself.

Durant needed help, and James Harden’s shot (7-of-17 from the field) wasn’t falling.

So the Nets went to LaMarcus Aldridge, time and time again. Call him the chairman of the committee. Aldridge may very well be the Nets’ new starting center after the performance he put on at the Wells Fargo Center.

“He’s a force down there. He knows how to play,” said Durant of his veteran big man. “His IQ is high. His game is simple and basic. That’s what I enjoy the most: guys that can just do things quick, catch-and-shoot, turn around jump shots. That’s his game, and he can finish at the rim. He’s just a smart player. So we just need to build off of this.”

The veteran big man was automatic from the mid-range and finished with 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting. He was a revelation defensively, as well: After Embiid all but bullied Nic Claxton, who got the start at the center for Brooklyn, Aldridge brought a physical presence. The Nets outscored the Sixers by 18 in his minutes on the floor.

“In this day and age, the mid-range is considered a bad shot, I guess,” Aldridge said postgame. “But I got 19,000 some-odd points off the mid-range so you tell me it’s a bad shot I don’t believe you.”

Next comes Project No. 2, a task the Nets will need to prepare for every night they step onto the floor. Which lineups and rotations does head coach Steve Nash trust to secure a win?

Against the Sixers, Nash played just four bench players real minutes: Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Patty Mills and Jevon Carter.

Mills shot a perfect 3-of-3 from downtown and is now 10-of-10 from three in his first two regular season games as a Net. Carter hounded every point guard the Sixers deployed and earned playing time over Bruce Brown with his ability to shoot the three.

“I think it allowed us to chase a little better on the perimeter, allowed us to open up some opportunities in transition and force some turnovers,” Nash said of the lineup that featured Mills and Carter, two defensive irritants. “But we know we can play small, we know that we have that. We went to it a little bit here in the end but we are still in that phase where we are going to experiment.”

Embiid finished with 19 points and eight rebounds but was unable to continue his dominance after the Nets went away from Claxton and went to Aldridge. Sixers scorers Seth Curry and Tobias Harris each scored 23 points, but cooled significantly in the second half.

Curry and Harris each hit transition threes in the first half, shots that helped balloon their lead to double digits early.

“They just kept making timely shots,” Durant explained. “So by the time the fourth quarter came, I think those shots didn’t fall. We were able to stay the course and stay with it and not get down on ourselves, and we pulled it even at the end of the fourth quarter. It was all off our intensity on defense.”

Meanwhile, the Nets ramped up their effort after falling behind 14 in the first half. The committee replacing Irving and compensating for Brooklyn’s shortcomings showed up against the Sixers.

Now they just need to show up in the first quarter.

“I don’t think there is anything that we are going to bottle up and put in a museum from this one,” Nash said postgame. “It was just a team effort.”

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