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When asked which Nets star faced the biggest threat to his team, Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce said he was afraid of all of them. He was right to be scared.
Brooklyn’s Big 3 was dominant in leading the Nets to a come-from-behind 132-128 overtime win over the Hawks at State Farm Arena.
The Nets (12-8) have won seven of their last nine and are showing signs of figuring out how to play together — at least in crunch time, when it counts.
James Harden had 31 points, 15 assists and eight boards in a marathon 46 minutes, the first Net to post 30 points and 15 dimes in a game since Stephon Marbury on Jan. 20, 2000, versus Detroit. Kevin Durant had a game-high 32 points and five boards, while Kyrie Irving had 26 points and seven assists.
Trae Young had 28 points for the Hawks, who fell to 9-9.
“You may think I’m full of [crap]. I think they’re all tough to guard. I do,” Pierce said. “KD’s hard to guard because he’s seven feet and he shoots better than any human being I’ve ever seen shoot. Harden, it’s hard to guard because nothing speeds him up, and he’s strong and physical and knows how to hold you off. And he’s as skilled with the basketball at that size as any person I’ve ever seen.
“Now we talk about Kyrie, who’s probably one of the best all-time one-on-one players. I’ve never seen a handle like this, and that’s the truth. I’ve just never seen anyone with the handle like Kyrie. How do you guard them when they’re in isolation situations? Do you send them [another] direction? Or do you send them to help? But who are you helping off of? Joe Harris hasn’t missed a game [without] a 3 in  games, so where’s your help coming from against three guys that have unique and unstoppable ways of being guarded in one-on-one situations?”
The Hawks spent a lot of attention on Harris, and kept him without a 3-pointer for the first time in 79 games. But Harris defended well and the Nets’ stars were superb, backed up with a solid night from Jeff Green.
After a back-and-forth regulation, Irving put the Nets on the board first with a stutter-step move, and a Harris steal led to a Green transition dunk and 120-116 lead.
Young pulled the Hawks within 122-121. But after Harden swung it to Green for a 3-pointer, the Nets led by four. Then Green’s steal off a Kevin Huerter pass got the ball to Irving, who found Durant streaking down the middle of the court for a dunk and 127-121 edge with 2:46 to play.
At 129-126, Durant’s turnover gave the Hawks a chance. But the Nets forced a De’Andre Hunter missed 3-pointer, and they grabbed the defensive rebound with a half-minute left.
Harden got fouled and went to the line with 4.6 seconds left. He sank both to ice the contest.
“They’re a difficult matchup. They have a lot of shooters, they have length, they have two great rollers,” Nash said before the game. “We need to figure out some things defensively obviously, so [it’d] be a great night to see how we can contain them and see if we can put up a good game against a team that’s been difficult for us to guard.”
The Nets tipped off a three-game road trip with a hard-earned victory. And after having played the most home games in the NBA, they’ll go into a brutal stretch with 10 of 13 away from Barclays Center.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to keep growing,” Nash said. “We’ve played so many games in a short period of time. We’re in a stretch now where we have a little bit of breathing room between games. For us to continue to find out who we are with this new group, to see where we’re going and how we’re going to get there, we need to play games.
“We need to figure out what are the characteristics that we have, what are the ones that we’re missing and how can we bridge the gaps? More than anything, it’s an opportunity to get more data, so to speak, on our team and to see where we really need to refine and improve and areas that we can get excited about.”
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