Brooklyn’s Big Three was still a man down Saturday, but Kevin Durant and debutant James Harden were already dominant. When Kyrie Irving gets back and the Nets get in sync, Harden warned that will be time for foes to really get scared.
“Once we go through every scenario — and it’s only maybe four or five that teams can really do against us, and throughout the course of the year that’s going to happen — once we figure out, ‘OK they’re doing this tonight, this is how we attack it,’ or ‘they’re doing this tonight, this is how we attack it,’ once we get that it’s basically up to us,” Harden said after the first 30-point triple-double debut in NBA history.
“I’m so excited for Ky to get back. He’s a key piece to what we’re trying to do. The chemistry, the sooner we can build that, the sooner we can be on the court together, it’s going to be scary hours.”
Opposing scouts had to be at least unnerved by what they saw Saturday.
Amid questions of how the Big Three can coexist, Durant and Harden torched Orlando for 74 points on just 44 shots. The trio is averaging a combined 55.9 attempts this season, and will have to adjust to complement each other’s brilliance. But the adjustment isn’t impossible, and might not even be difficult.
Over the past 30 years, The Post found eight teams that won NBA championships with three players combining to average 50 shots. Michael Jordan’s 1993 Bulls led the way with 52.9, followed closely by Durant’s 2017 Warriors with 52.4.
Each of the Nets’ Big Three giving up a single shot puts them right in line with Jordan’s Bulls. Harden’s 14 assists — and the Nets being a plus-10 in 31 minutes with he and Durant together — bodes well.
“He played the same way he was playing in Houston: Handling the basketball, being a pass-first guard, trying to get his guys good looks. He played the same way,” Durant said. “Coach [Steve Nash] put him at the point. I think his natural position, to be honest, is point, combo guard.”
Harden’s nine turnovers were largely explained by not having a single practice and only a day to learn a few sets. But after averaging an NBA-high 11.2 assists four seasons ago, he entered Sunday second in assist percentage and fourth in total assists despite having played just nine games.
Who handles more playmaking duty when Irving returns bears watching, but the Nets’ shooting percentage improved every quarter as Harden settled in, from 42.1 percent in the first to 50.0 and 57.1 before a sizzling 66.7 in the fourth.
“It felt great,” Harden said. “Even when I stepped foot into the building it was open arms. Like I said, anything I need, they’re there for me.
“They’re making sure I’m getting my work in, making sure that everything is laid, so all I’ve got to do is go out there and be me. For me in return, I’ve got to make sure everybody is feeding off that, and [Saturday] was a really good start. Hopefully next game we have Ky back and keep this thing rolling.”
That next game is Monday versus Milwaukee and MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, with Irving listed as questionable. Irving hasn’t played since Jan. 5 due to first personal leave and then a five-day mandated quarantine.
With Irving expected to work out Sunday with the reserves, Nash could face the ultimate First World problem of adding an All-NBA guard to the mix.
“We’re going to have to continually find how it all works to its best level, to the most effective and efficient standard. But throwing Kyrie in the mix makes us better,” Nash said. “It’s a good problem to have, trying to figure out where they can coexist to their highest level.
“It takes time; it’s going to be an adjustment for everyone. But it’s an incredible problem to have and something we’ll relish trying to decipher.”