The Nets needed a 30-point quarter in each frame to fuel Saturday's 128-124 win over the Miami Heat, but James Harden was not much of a scoring factor. Harden netted 12 points on 2-of-8 shooting, going 0 for 5 from long range, while sinking eight free throws.
Harden, however, made the most of his 38 minutes with a double-double on 11 assists. He added seven rebounds. While he could have been more efficient, in just the second game playing alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, scoring is not a primary objective.
"I just want to come in and get a feel for what's going on," Harden said Saturday. "Obviously, I could be more aggressive offensively -- but we have more than enough scorers and guys that can put the ball in the basket.
"So I've just got to pick and choose my spots, which I feel like I'm doing OK. But facilitating -- getting guys shots, getting our bigs finishes at the rim -- and just being solid defensively is what I'm trying to do."
After Harden put on a show with consecutive 30-point performances alongside Durant in last week's victories against the Orlando Magic (122-115, Jan. 16) and Milwaukee Bucks (125-123, Jan. 18), he has seen his scoring production drop.
Between this past week's losses at the Cleveland Cavaliers -- 147-135 in double overtime Wednesday and 125-113 Friday -- and Saturday's win over Miami, Harden averaged 17.3 points on 38.9% shooting but posted 11.3 assists and 7.3 rebounds through 42.0 minutes per game.
"He found guys for layups or wide-open threes and created and distorted the defense," said head coach Steve Nash. "So he wasn't himself, shooting the ball, and I think he's still trying to get himself into shape. That was a tough little week for him -- three games in four nights, including double overtime. So, I think, hats off to him for finding a way to contribute when his shot wasn't going and his legs weren't there -- he still made a lot of plays for his team."
Durant (31) and Irving (28), who combined for 59 points while 58.3% shooting on a 21-of-36 clip, were among Harden's direct beneficiaries against the Heat (6-9). As the Nets (10-8) prepare for a rematch Monday with Miami, back again at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Durant sees progress.
"Trust is already there, I think," Durant said. "I think just the familiarity with each other is there already. We played with each other and know each other's games for the last decade. It's just a matter of what plays we're going to run at certain times with lineups we're going to have out there.
"Both the coaches and the players are fine tuning everything and we're going to have spurts where we play inconsistent. It's because we're trying things. But for the most part, our minds and hearts are in the right place when we're out there and we're trying to take care of business every possession."