NBA

'We've got to have each other's back' - Harden admits Nets defense needs work

By Sports Desk January 23, 2021

James Harden says the Brooklyn Nets must be "more engaged" on defense after a second successive loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers again exposed their weakness.

According to Harden, who made the point repeatedly in a brisk post-game news conference, it is communication that the Nets need to work on to reach their potential.

With Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in their ranks, such potential is obviously something very special indeed.

But as Harden stressed, all their scoring power will be negated if they leak too many points to the opposition, as they did in sliding to Friday's 125-113 defeat.

It was a result that sent Brooklyn sliding to 9-8 this season, and recent arrival Harden hopes there can be improvement in the games ahead.

He said: "Our communication, our position, we never really had practice time so we're learning on the fly.

"It's just constant effort. We've got to be more accurate on loose basketballs, do a better job on rebounding basketballs, and then do a better job of keeping our man in front of us.

"There are some of the aspects we can get better on. If we do those things, then the schemes and all those plays we can figure those out later, the principles are those small things.

"I've got to be a little more aggressive. Honestly, our problem isn't offense. We scored 113 points tonight and even in the last game it was more than enough to win the game.

"Defensively we have to be more engaged."

That last game, to which Harden referred, was the 147-135 double-overtime loss to the Cavs.

The former Houston Rockets player and eight-time All-Star said it is "little tweaks" that are required, starting from Saturday's clash with the Miami Heat.

"Individually, our communication from the other four guys - the four guys that aren't guarding the ball - has to communicate on where the help is, where to send the dribbler, and just communicate, have each other's back," Harden said.

"Once our communication from all five guys are in sync, our defense will be that much better.

"But it seems like we're on an island out there and we have to all do a better job, including myself, of communicating and helping each other out defensively and that will happen."

With Durant absent after an Achilles problem, Harden bagged 19 points and 11 assists and Irving scored a game-high 38 points.

And while the combination of the three Nets superstars seems sure to click, Harden knows what the priority must be.

"As much as we can talk about scoring - we're very good at scoring - we've got to round up some stops and once we get that going we'll be in the lead on both sides of the ball, but right now our problem is defense," Harden said.

"[On Saturday] we've got another chance to get better."

Related items

  • Embiid won't let up after dominating again for 76ers, Nuggets star Jokic falls just short of triple-double Embiid won't let up after dominating again for 76ers, Nuggets star Jokic falls just short of triple-double

    Joel Embiid has no plans to let up after putting on another dominating performance as the Philadelphia 76ers defeated a depleted New Orleans Pelicans side on Tuesday.

    Embiid had 42 points alongside 14 rebounds and four assists for the 76ers, who ran out 117-107 victors at the Wells Fargo Center.

    Having been criticised in the past for missing games, Embiid recently revealed he has altered his diet in order to compete more regularly.

    It certainly seems to have done the trick. Tuesday's game was his 19th in a row, helping Philly to a 13-6 run in that time, during which he is averaging 33.3 points to enhance his MVP credentials having finished runner-up last season.

    "That was one of my goals, just to be available. I don't plan on stopping," said Embiid, whose 76ers side are now 28-19 and sixth in the East.

    The Pelicans actually led 58-50 at the break despite missing starters Devonte Graham, Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram with ankle injuries, while Jonas Valanciunas was rested. Zion Williamson is also still out with the foot injury that has kept him out all season.

    Asked what the thought process was for the second half, Embiid said: "Just win.

    "Just being aggressive because in the first half everything was easy for them."

    Embiid was not the only player to go off on Tuesday, with Nikola Jokic leading the Denver Nuggets in their 110-105 defeat of the Detroit Pistons, which leaves them sixth in the West with a 25-21 record.

    Jokic had 28 points, 21 rebounds and nine assists but was uninterested in re-watching the film to try and find an extra assist that would have given him a triple-double.

    "I'm not worried about that," he said. 

    "It was a good game for me and a huge win for our team. I knew I was having a big night, but I wasn't thinking about the stats."

    During the game, Jokic chalked up a 3,000th career NBA assist. He is now the only Denver player to record 3,000 assists and 5,000 rebounds in the NBA.

    "It's hard to keep track of all the milestones he's passing," head coach Michael Malone said. 

    "He just won Western Conference Player of the Week, and then he has 28, 21 and nine tonight."

    Team-mate Jeff Green, who had 20 points himself, added of Jokic: "It's incredible to play with Jokic – he's one of the best players I've ever been on the floor with. 

    "When you are out there with him, you know that if you do your job, you're going to get open shots. The defense has to focus on him."

  • Thompson impresses as Warriors rout Mavericks and says 'it felt good to be myself again' Thompson impresses as Warriors rout Mavericks and says 'it felt good to be myself again'

    Klay Thompson said "it felt good to be myself again" after playing a season-high 25 minutes in the Golden State Warriors' 130-92 rout of the Dallas Mavericks.

    Thompson is still getting up to speed having missed two and a half years, first with a serious knee injury then with a torn Achilles.

    He sat out the Warriors previous two matches to rest his surgically repaired left knee but was part of a well-rounded offense that downed Luka Doncic and the Mavericks to help Golden State clock up a third straight win.

    Thompson had 15 points alongside six assists, while Stephen Curry had 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Jonathan Kuminga added 22 points, while Jordan Poole had 17 off the bench for the title contenders.

    "I really pride myself on my efficiency, so it felt good to be myself again," Thompson said of his performance.

    "My mindset is just to play with energy, great focus and joy."

    Head coach Steve Kerr believes it was Thompson's best performance since his comeback.

    "I think this was Klay's best game in terms of his patience and allowing things to happen, he wasn't forcing it at all," Kerr said.

    Doncic scored 25 points on an otherwise forgettable night for the Mavericks, whose misery was compounded by Tm Hardaway Jr going off court with a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot with seven minutes and 16 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

    "I just want to say how sorry we are to hear that. You hate to see anybody get injured," Kerr said. 

    "I just want to send him our regards from the organisation and hopefully he’s back sometime soon. I don’t know what the prognosis is. We feel terrible for him."

    Doncic added of his team-mate: "That's just bad luck. I talked to him. He's disappointed. Every time you get injured you are sad, so we tried to cheer him up."

  • Lue lauds 'crazy' Clippers comeback Lue lauds 'crazy' Clippers comeback

    Los Angeles Clippers coach Ty Lue branded his side's stunning comeback win over the Washington Wizards as "crazy".

    The Clippers roared back from 66-31 down in the second quarter to claim a thrilling 116-115 triumph at Capital One Arena.

    In doing so, they became the first team in NBA history to score under 40 points in the first half of a game and follow up by posting 40 or more points in both the third and fourth quarters.

    And Lue, who was without injured leading duo Kawhi Leonard (ACL) and Paul George (elbow), was delighted by the Clippers' astonishing feat.

    "It's crazy," he said. "Because when I looked at the score in the first half, I thought we were down 19. And I looked again, I said, 'We're down 29!' I said, 'Oh s***!' It happened so quick.

    "We kept chipping away. I know when it was like 17 going into the fourth, and I think when we got to 10, I was like, okay, we got a real shot."

    Luke Kennard landed a three-point pullup jump shot with 1.9 seconds remaining, tying the game.

    He was fouled in the process, earning a free throw, and made no mistake from that opportunity as he landed the game-winning point.

    Amir Coffey was one of the players who came in for the second half to help instigate the fightback, adding 29 points, and he echoed his coach's sentiments regarding the mad nature of the contest.

    "Probably the craziest game I've ever been a part of," he said. "January's been wild.

    "You never know when the game is over. Play through the buzzer.

    "Like tonight, anything can happen."

    On the losing side, the Wizards' Bradley Beal was left humiliated.

    "I have no words, besides 'embarrassing'," he said, having put up 23 points. 

    "I was frustrated when I had to go back in. This should have been a game where the starters get their rest. Plain and simple."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.