NBA

Nash: Harden's return will change everything as Nets lose fourth straight

By Sports Desk May 06, 2021

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said the return of superstar James Harden will "change everything" after the NBA championship hopefuls slumped to a fourth consecutive defeat.

The star-studded Nets – playing without former MVP Harden again due to a hamstring injury – fell to the Dallas Mavericks 113-109 on Thursday.

A game-high 45 points from Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant's 20 points were not enough for the Nets, who are two and a half games behind the Philadelphia 76ers in the race of the Eastern Conference top seed ahead of the playoffs.

Harden has not played since April 5 but is "very confident" he will return to action before the postseason gets underway.

Reflecting on the result, Nash – whose Nets are eyeing their maiden title – told reporters: "We're just trying to get better every day. We can't really control the injuries. We're getting healthy bodies back, we've got the most guys I think we've had all year right now that are available; so that's positive. Trying to figure out some rotations and combinations.

"Obviously, James comes back at some point and changes everything again. But we're trying to just get better. We're trying to get more familiar with what we're trying to do, trying to get better at our principles and get a better understanding between one another.

"As I said, a lot of these teams have been in the last two, three, four years in a row. We're just getting to know each other; a lot of our guys have missed a lot of season. So trying to gain that understanding, that continuity is what we're after right now. We're going through a tough stretch, we're not playing really well, we're not playing really sharp. We were right in it today, we had our chances for sure; we've had our chances in the last three games.

"So what is it that can get us over the hump? I think the first thing is for us to continue to stay strong mentally, to pick each other up, to realise we got a lot of work to do. We keep working, we don't let this take the wind out of our sails and we'll improve and get better."

While Irving starred, Durant was below his best against the Mavericks as he finished seven-for-21 shooting, having missed all four of his three-point attempts on the road.

"Kevin didn't have a great rhythm tonight, especially in the second half. He normally can get to his spots and convert. He just wasn't in a great rhythm. Some nights it's just going to happen," said Nash.

"We're all going to have poor shooting performances or nights where we don't quite have a rhythm. And then the defense, we made some mistakes. I thought the third-quarter defense was really good. In the fourth quarter, we made a few mistakes and they made a few plays, but I think there's a lot to build on. We can look at the tape, continue to build, continue to grow."

Durant added: "It's trust my work and most of the times a mentality switch on what I need to do to be more effective and more efficient. Tonight I tried shots that I shouldn't have tried. I shot over a double-team in the fourth quarter. I shot a runner going to the left, just trying to get into the game scoring-wise, and sometimes that pushes me out of the game when I try those tough ones, but it's all a learning experience.

"I'm glad it's happening now for us instead of in a couple weeks, and hopefully we build off of this and keep growing, and I hope we feel this pain, I guess, from losing, feeling like we're not where we want to be. I like this position for us, and I think it's gonna make us better as we continue to keep watching film, going through practice, going through shootarounds and then playing in games."

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    Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd was left frustrated by his side's shot selection as they went 2-0 down to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

    Despite a strong lead after the second quarter thanks to a best-in-show Luka Doncic, who posted 42, the visitors were pegged back for a second consecutive loss at Chase Center.

    The Mavs blew several chances to keep daylight between themselves and their hosts in the third quarter, but an over-reliance on attempts to bags 3s left them to suffer.

    "When you go 2-for-13 and you rely on the 3, you can die by the 3," Kidd said. "And we died in the third quarter by shooting that many 3s and coming up with only two.

    "If you make [3s], that's great, but you just have to understand, if you miss four in a row, you can't take the fifth.

    "You've got to make it. That just puts too much stress on yourself and on your team because, if you're not getting stops on the other end, it turns into a blowout."

    The Mavs face a tough road back into contention, but will take consolation from the fact a 2-0 deficit is far from insurmountable, having been knocked out by the Clippers last season with a similar advantage after two games.

    They also boast Doncic, one of the best form players in the NBA right now, and the Slovenian admitted his side could have put more in.

    "We weren't attacking the paint that much," he added. "But we got to attack the paint more, like they did. They attacked the paint a lot.

    "They have two of the best shooters in the world, and they still attack the paint. So I think we've got to rely less on the 3."

  • 'Luka is nice like that' – Stephen Curry pays respect to unguardable Doncic 'Luka is nice like that' – Stephen Curry pays respect to unguardable Doncic

    Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry feels his side has become a well-oiled machine over the course of the season, but admitted sometimes there is nothing you can do about Luka Doncic's brilliance.

    The Warriors came back from 53-34 down with seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, holding the Dallas Mavericks to 13 points in the third period, before winning the last frame 43-32 to run over the top late.

    Curry top-scored for the Warriors with 32 points on 11-of-21 shooting, while Jordan Poole was terrific off the bench with 23 on seven-of-10 shooting, including 12 in the fourth quarter.

    Despite the loss, Doncic scored a game-high 42 points on 12-of-23 shooting, while also dishing a game-high eight assists.

    During Curry's post-game media appearance, he said he feels like the Warriors have figured a lot out defensively over the course of the season, but players like Doncic are simply "nice like that".

    "[Chemistry] is something that's been slowly building over the course of the regular season," he said. 

    "It didn't always show on the court, but the roles, and how we play on both ends of the floor, everybody is comfortable with what they're being asked to do.

    "Even [Wiggins] – he has a tough challenge of chasing Luka pretty much everywhere, every time he's out there on the floor. 

    "He understands he's going to get scored on – because Luka is nice like that – but over the course of 48 minutes you figure out how to wear him down a little bit, and go back at him on the offensive end."

    He went on to say he does not think about the Mavericks' lack of playoff experience, with the Warriors instead focusing on imposing their will.

    "It's not [Dallas' lack of experience] – it's just the supreme confidence in what we do," he said.

    "You don't really know what they're talking about in the huddle, you don't feel what's going through their mind, it's just you imposing your will.

    "For us, the experience, and the chemistry – obviously this group is a bit different – but we have that attitude and spirit that we feel we're never out of it. I think only one game in this playoff run we've been severely outmatched from start-to-finish.

    "That belief then turns into execution in the game, and you can feel the momentum. It's more focused on what we do, and when you have the opportunity to stick in the dagger, or come up with three stops in a row, those are the times when you feel that good energy."

    Curry also touched on the Mavs' hot start, which saw them put up 72 points in the first half, and how the Warriors can make large deficits disappear in a hurry.

    "We knew they were going to come out aggressive, and making shots," he said. 

    "We didn't think they were going to be that hot – it seemed like no matter what we did they always found the right guy, and they had no hesitation to shoot it.

    "They had 15 threes in the first half – it felt like a lot – but all of a sudden you look at the scoreboard and we got it down to two at one point, and then it ballooned out to 14.

    "14, for us, is more than manageable if we come out and influence the game, starting on the defensive end.

    "When you can limit a team like that to 13 points [in a quarter] – it wasn't like a flurry, but it seemed like we regained the momentum, and slowly, and methodically walked them down.

    "The first six minutes of the fourth quarter was kind of the real momentum shift – it gave the crowd some life, and gave us some life, and allowed us to run away with the win."

    Game 3 and Game 4 will head to Dallas, and if the Warriors can win just one, they will head back to Golden State for Game 5 with a 3-1 lead.

  • Curry and Poole lead fourth-quarter Warriors eruption in Game 2 win Curry and Poole lead fourth-quarter Warriors eruption in Game 2 win

    The Golden State Warriors produced a spectacular comeback in front of their home fans to defeat the Dallas Mavericks 126-117 and take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

    It appeared early that the Mavericks would be the ones heading back to Dallas for Game 3 and Game 4 with momentum, as Luka Doncic had 24 first-half points to help his side to a 72-58 half-time lead.

    But the Warriors went up a level defensively in the third period, holding the Mavericks to just 13 points as they chipped away at the margin, which peaked at 53-34 with seven minutes to play in the second frame.

    While the third quarter was a defensive struggle, allowing the Warriors to pull the margin back to two points, the fourth was an offensive explosion as the two teams combined for 75 points.

    Ultimately, the Mavericks could not keep up as the Warriors piled on 43 points in the term, including 12 of Jordan Poole's 23 off the bench (seven-of-10 shooting), and 10 of Stephen Curry's 32 (11-of-21 from the field, six-of-10 from long range).

    Warriors center Kevon Looney was also a difference-maker, scoring 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting and grabbing 12 rebounds, while Andrew Wiggins had 16 points (five-of-14 shooting) and Klay Thompson had 15 (six-of-10).

    For the Mavericks, Doncic finished with a game-high 42 points on 12-of-23 shooting, as well as game-highs in assists (eight) and steals (three).

    He was supported strongly by Jalen Brunson, who had 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting, and Reggie Bullock, who shot six-of-10 from three-point range for his 21 points.

    Game 3 and Game 4 will be nearly must-wins for the Mavericks, because if they lose just one of the two, the Warriors will head home for Game 5 with a 3-1 lead.

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