Harden score 38, spark Nets comeback from 24 down to top Suns

PHOENIX — James Harden relished the chance to share the scoring load when he joined the star-filled Brooklyn Nets earlier this season.

But with his All-Star buddies cheering in street clothes from the bench, Harden showed he can still fill up a box score and provide plenty of fourth-quarter heroics if needed.

Harden scored 38 points, Joe Harris added 22 and the Nets overcame a 24-point deficit to stun the Phoenix Suns 128-124 on Tuesday night.

While Harden was the undeniable star for the Nets, his teammates provided plenty of good moments, too. The bench added 40 points and Harris scored 15 in the second half.

“It’s the true definition of a team,” Harden said. “One or two guys go down, next man up.”

The Nets were playing without two of their three main stars, but Harden was more than up for the challenge. Kevin Durant was out with a hamstring injury while Kyrie Irving was held out with lower back tightness.

Harden’s 3-pointer from a few feet beyond the arc with 31 seconds left gave the Nets their first lead of the game at 126-124 and he hit two more free throws with 11.3 seconds remaining to polish off the win. Harden shot 14 of 22 from the field and added 11 assists and seven rebounds.

Kyrie and KD were HYPED after Harden hit the game-winner 😤 pic.twitter.com/kyMH9Rms9Q

— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 17, 2021

The Suns didn’t score over the final 2:48.

“All vibes in (the locker room) right now,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “Guys are rightfully excited, it’s great for morale. Missing Kevin and Kyrie and finding a way to make up a 24-point deficit. They showed a lot of heart.”

Brooklyn won its fourth straight game in a triumphant return to Phoenix for Nash. The Suns had their six-game winning streak snapped.

Chris Paul scored 29 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough for the Suns. Devin Booker added 22.

Phoenix jumped out a 33-22 lead in the first quarter after shooting 56.5% from the field. The Suns were even better in the second, pouring in 42 points to grab a 75-54 halftime lead.

But the Nets were about to pull off their biggest halftime comeback since joining the NBA in 1976.

Brooklyn sliced Phoenix’s lead to 100-88 by the end of the third quarter. Suns coach Monty Williams said that was the time when his team lost the momentum.

“I thought the first four, five, six minutes of the third quarter our offense was in mud,” Williams said. “The ball movement wasn’t there. The urgency just wasn’t there and we gave a team life.”

The Nets would pull within 108-106 midway through the fourth after a corner 3-pointer from Tyler Johnson but the Suns responded with a dunk from Deandre Ayton and a 3 from Mikal Bridges and it looked like they would regain control.

But the Nets had one more run. Harden sliced through the Suns’ defense to pull Brooklyn within 124-121 with 1:39 left. Jeff Green’s layup with 59 seconds made it 124-123. That set up Harden’s decisive 3-pointer on the next possession.

“That one was fun,” Johnson said.

Johnson got his first start of the season in Irving’s place. The 28-year-old Johnson spent the first half of last season with the Suns before being released in February. Johnson finished with 17 points in 32 minutes.