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MINNEAPOLIS — Is the Beard again?

Perhaps James Harden was sparked by the protection Friday evening, or maybe he was just unusually springy at San Antonio. However he says it’s one thing greater.

The Nets star claims his lengthy street again from a June hamstring damage is behind him, and an prolonged run of prime Harden is forward of him.

“Yeah, I’m positively again,” Harden stated. “It’s simply all through the course of the 12 months we had a lot occurring [with] our crew. A number of accidents and whatnot, and clearly the scenario with Kyrie [Irving], so it’s actually troublesome to get a rhythm like all of us need to.

“However we simply obtained to proceed to struggle, proceed to take one recreation at a time and push by way of it. Ultimately this factor goes to come back collectively the place we’re all collectively and all of us make a extremely, actually big run at this factor. However as of now we simply proceed to develop, younger guys proceed to get higher, proceed to show and construct each single recreation.”

In need of Irving getting vaccinated — and thus turning into eligible to play house video games — the Nets couldn’t have gotten a significantly better constructing block. The sight of Harden trying bodily explosive bodes nicely, beginning Sunday towards the Timberwolves.

James Harden
James Harden
NBAE through Getty Photographs

After posting a horrible minus-26 in his prior two video games, at Cleveland and Washington, and a minus-29 in his prior 11, Harden dominated with 37 factors, 11 assists and 10 rebounds towards the Spurs. And the lasting picture might be of him throwing down a spotlight dunk over middle Jakob Poeltl that had the Nets excited nicely after the sport. As nicely it ought to have.

“As a result of they don’t assume I can dunk no extra,” Harden quipped. “I struggled final recreation and I type of wished to get again and play higher, so it feels actually good.”

Harden was a minus-18 at Cleveland on the primary recreation of this journey, earlier than committing eight turnovers at Washington within the second. However within the third he wasn’t simply technically superior, however bodily improved.

“I can’t converse for him, however he’s aggressive. Nobody’s going to be excellent each evening, so it’s comprehensible. However he positively got here in locked in, and he performed nice passing the ball, scoring the ball simply doing every part,” stated LaMarcus Aldridge, including that dunk would possibly’ve been the bounciest Harden has seemed.

“Yeah. Aside from that tip jam he had in Brooklyn. He seemed targeted. He’s an excellent, so he’s going to determine it out and get again on observe. … He was simply nice.”

A lot has been made about how Harden’s grade 2 hamstring pressure simply 43 seconds into the Jap Convention semifinals final season towards the Bucks — an damage he tried to hobble by way of within the ultimate three video games of that sequence — compelled him to spend all summer season rehabbing as a substitute of taking part in pickup.

James Harden drives past Jakob Poeltl during the Nets' win over the Spurs.
James Harden drives previous Jakob Poeltl through the Nets’ win over the Spurs.
USA TODAY Sports activities

That slowed his first step only a hair, and certain lowered his vertical leap an inch or three. Harden had simply 5 dunks all season coming into Friday.

Patty Mills thought the Nets’ improved protection helped Harden.

After the Nets blocked only a single shot within the second quarter, they blocked three within the third and held the Spurs to 32 p.c capturing. They obtained out on the break, and Harden had 12 factors within the quarter.

“The tempo we performed with offensively, I feel [it helped],” Mills stated. “He obtained into his groove, felt he could make an influence on the sport, obtained into the paint.”

Irving stated the reality is way less complicated.

“I feel he simply lastly made the choice: I’m going to come back down the lane and punch it on any person,” Irving stated. “He was going towards [Poeltl] and he was like, ‘I’ve obtained to go dunk that,’ and he got here out in that third quarter and simply took off.

“And that’s who he’s, simply taking part in off that aggression and simply being himself. And it will get all of us hype simply seeing him do these issues. We all know he’s able to it and we simply need to see him proceed to try this.”

Make that have to see.

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