Brooklyn’s Big Three will make their first appearance in Atlanta on Wednesday when the Nets, who have won six of their last eight, visit the Hawks.
The teams met in back-to-back games in New York early in the season, but this is the first trip to Atlanta for the trio of James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
The sides split the previous matchups, a wild 145-141 Brooklyn win on Dec. 30 and a methodical 114-96 Atlanta victory on Jan. 1. Harden was still a Houston Rocket then, but he was dealt to Brooklyn in mid-January.
“I am very confident, especially with this group and what we are capable of,” Harden said. “We haven’t had much time to practice, which we keep saying, but I think learning on the fly and learning while we’re winning is obviously good.”
The Nets had Tuesday off after beating the visiting Miami Heat 98-85 on Monday, a game that saw the star trio combine for 56 of Brooklyn’s points. Durant and Harden each scored 20.
Harden is still rounding into form, as he is averaging 23 points, 7.3 rebounds and 11.3 assists in his six games with the Nets.
“Would I like James to be more aggressive? Yes,” Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said. “Will he be more aggressive in time? I think so. I think once he gets more comfortable with his teammates, when he gets in better shape, when he’s adapted to this whole new environment, we’ll see an improved James scoring the ball.”
In 19 career games against Atlanta, Harden is averaging 26.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists.
“It feels good not to have to score so much to give ourselves a chance to win the game,” Harden said. “I can just go out there and be a playmaker and shoot my shot once it’s available and still get guys involved to have a chance to win the game.”
Atlanta is coming off 108-99 win Tuesday over the Los Angeles Clippers, who were playing without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Hawks have won four of their last five games.
Atlanta flourished with the return of Trae Young and Clint Capela, who both missed the previous game against the Milwaukee Bucks due to minor ailments.
Young scored 38 points, his third straight game with 30-plus points, and Capela had 13 points and 18 rebounds, his third straight game with 18-plus rebounds.
Atlanta played without Cam Reddish, who was nursing right Achilles tightness.
Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said the defense provided by Capela and John Collins, who had five blocked shots and 11 rebounds against the Clippers, is making a huge difference.
“To hold anybody in the league under 100 is huge. I don’t care who you’re playing or where you’re playing,” Pierce said. “Both Clint and John have been tremendous defensively for us as backline defenders.”
This will be the third back-to-back for the Hawks this season. They split the first one, winning in Brooklyn and losing at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They dropped both ends of a back-to-back during a mid-January road trip, falling to the Utah Jazz and the Portland Trail Blazers.
–Field Level Media