When asked which Nets star faced the biggest threat to his team, Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said he was afraid of all of them. He was right to have feared Scary Hours.
The Big Three led the Nets to a come-from-behind 132-128 overtime win in Atlanta. And what they didn’t do, reserves Jeff Green and Bruce Brown did.
“We just gutted it out. It was just fine margins, made enough baskets, made enough hustle plays, enough rebounds, just to get us over the line,” coach Steve Nash said. “It wasn’t pretty, but we found a way. We’ll take it.”
Kevin Durant had a game-high 32 points. Kyrie Irving added 26 points and seven assists, while James Harden has looked more aggressive as he plays himself into better shape and greater comfort with his teammates.
Harden — who said it would be Scary Hours once the Big Three get in sync — had 31 points, 15 assists and eight boards.
“That’s who he is. We just want him to come into this group and not so much think about fitting in, but just be who he is. We want him to continue to progress and grow,” Irving said. “All of us realize we still have a level to get to individually and then collectively as a group.”
The Nets (12-8) are steadily advancing to that level. They rallied from a 90-83 fourth quarter hole to win for the seventh time in their last nine.
“Just [proud of] our fight. Obviously, throughout the whole game, there’s runs that you’ve just got to be able to withstand. We just want to stay resilient,” Irving said. “Just having a relentlessness to continue to weather the storm throughout the game, no matter what’s going on, making shots or not. That’s definitely what I’m most proud of.”
Trae Young had 28 points for the Hawks (9-9), but the Nets’ bench and team defense that — both maligned — came up with just enough plays to improve to 5-2 since acquiring Harden. It was the perfect way to start a rough stretch with 10 of 13 on the road.
“It’s huge, especially when we handled business,” Green said. “The transfer from last game — like I talked about — was there. We showed resilience and fight the whole game when things weren’t going our way. But we showed character, and that’s what it’s going to take for us on the road.”
Joe Harris was held without a 3-pointer for the first time in 79 games. But he defended well, while Green and Brown backed up the Big Three. Brown had 10 points in the fourth quarter to help the Nets climb back in the game.
Down 90-83 in the fourth after a Danilo Gallinari 3, the Nets responded with a 9-0 run.
A Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot 3 followed by Harden free throws cut into the deficit. Harden’s no-look pass gave Brown a pair of free throws to knot it, and he found Green for a posterization of John Collins (21 points) to make it 92-90.
The rest of regulation was tight, before Harden missed a step-back 3 in the final seconds. Brown poked the ball away from Collins with 0.3 seconds to preserve overtime, where the Nets won it.
“When we needed stops, we got stops, especially that unit in the fourth quarter with Bruce and Joe and Jeff and TLC did an unbelievable job of just being feisty, rebounding the ball, creating energy,” Harden said. “That was the turning point.”
After it was turned, the Nets never let it turn back. Irving put them on the board first in OT with a stutter step, and a Harris steal led to a Green transition dunk and 120-116 lead they never surrendered.
Young pulled the Hawks within 122-121, but after Harden hit Green for a 3 the Nets were back up by four. Then Green’s steal sparked a Durant fast-break dunk and 127-121 edge with 2:46 to play.
At 129-126, Durant’s turnover did give Atlanta a chance; but the Nets got a stop when they needed it. They forced a De’Andre Hunter (21 points) missed 3-pointer, and they grabbed the key rebound with a half-minute left.
Harden earned a trip to the line and iced it with 4.6 seconds left.