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James Harden’s triple double propels Nets over Spurs


SAN ANTONIO — The Nets’ Patty Mills and LaMarcus Aldridge got a tribute in their returns to the city where they played for the Spurs. Then teammates James Harden and Kyrie Irving ensured they got a triumph. 

The two stars were brilliant in leading the Nets to a 117-102 victory over the Spurs at AT&T Center on Friday. They took command late in the third quarter and cruised in the fourth. 

Harden had another triple-double with 37 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. The most encouraging sign wasn’t his brilliance, but his bounce — he attacked the rim and even took off for a stunning dunk through contact in the third. 

Irving scored eight of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, when the Nets put the game away. They improved to 29-16, pulled even on percentage points with the Bulls atop the Eastern Conference, and made Aldridge and Mills’ return victorious. 

James Harden finished with 37 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
AP

“Just being able to stay in the moment, stay in the experience, that’s going to be important to me to just try and soak it up as much as I can,” Mills said before the game. “I put a decade worth of passion and pride into being able to represent the Spurs the right way and the Spurs’ way. And being amongst the community and getting involved with the community of San Antonio was what made that special.” 

Aldridge, who spent six seasons in San Antonio, had 16 points and seven rebounds. Mills, who played a decade as a Spur and won a title in 2014, added nine points. The pair were feted with a tribute video right after the national anthem, and Mills went down the Spurs bench hugging former teammates. Coach Gregg Popovich humorously refused at first, before relenting. 

Patty Mills (left) and LaMarcus Aldridge embrace after watching a tribute video.
Patty Mills (left) and LaMarcus Aldridge embrace after watching a tribute video.
NBAE via Getty Images

“Everything comes to an end at some point. We’re in a rebuilding mode, and that doesn’t help [Mills] very much. He’s very important to Brooklyn. It’s a different group when you’ve got Harden and Irving and [Kevin] Durant. You’ve got those guys out there and he’s a complement to them,” Popovich said. “We knew this was going to happen. We just wanted to try to make sure he got to a place where it was going to be a successful program.” 

Irving was his flashy self, at one point going between his legs to a trailing Blake Griffin for a transition layup. But the highlight was undeniably Harden. 

The struggling All-Star had been an unsightly minus-26 in the two pervious games on this road trip, at Cleveland and Washington. But on Friday he was not only spectacular, but springy. 

Kyrie Irving (left) and James Harden celebrate during the Nets' win over the Spurs.
Kyrie Irving (left) and James Harden celebrate during the Nets’ win over the Spurs.
AP

Harden played every second of the third quarter, giving the Nets 12 points and four assists. They had 12 baskets and he accounted for two-thirds of them — along with an emphatic dunk for a 68-67 lead with 5:04 left in the period. 

Trailing 74-73 with just over a minute and a half left in the third, the Nets ran off eight unanswered points to finally get some sort of control over the contest. 

Energizer Bruce Brown came off the bench with harassing defense on Derrick White and a pair of blocks in succession. The second came with just 3 seconds left in the third quarter, and he raced up-court and was rewarded with a thunderous fast-break dunk that beat the buzzer. 

Irving’s bucket to open the fourth capped the run and pushed the lead to seven. His dipsy-do layup, followed by a pull-up 3-pointer, made it 104-90 with 4:37 left to play.

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