NBA

Nets' Harden has triple-double to down former team Rockets: I wasn't trying to show off

By Sports Desk March 04, 2021

James Harden said he was not trying to show off after his triple-double fuelled the high-flying Brooklyn Nets in the former NBA MVP's first game against the Houston Rockets since his blockbuster trade.

Harden showed no mercy on Wednesday, his 29 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds guiding the Nets to a 132-114 victory over the Rockets in Houston.

The former Rockets star received a mixed response from fans at Toyota Center midweek following the "drama" surrounding his January exit, having demanded a trade after more than eight seasons.

After condemning the struggling and injury-hit Rockets to a 13th consecutive defeat, Harden reflected on his return to Houston.

"I'm excited," Harden said. "We got a win. We've been playing very, very good basketball, and to finish out strong like this to in the All-Star break means a lot to us. Hopefully we can get guys healthy; KD [Kevin Durant], Jeff [Green], TLC [Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot], and after the break just keep rolling.

"As far as playing in Houston, a lot of mixed emotions from the fans, but knew that was gonna happen. I just wanted to come out here and give them a show."

Led by Harden, the Rockets reached two Western Conference Finals, while Houston earned three semi-final appearances after the nine-time All-Star was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012.

The Rockets are planning to retire Harden's number 13 jersey in Houston.

"Hopefully I did something right," Harden said. "Obviously I came up short of a championship, but the work on and off the court that I put in over the past eight years was elite you know.

"I think that's the only thing I didn't do, or didn't accomplish is a championship, which is difficult to attain, but as far as bringing excitement to this city, taking care of the fans on and off the court is something that I try to contribute, so hopefully that outweighs that."

Harden has starred since joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, where he has already tallied eight triple-doubles in a Nets uniform – second in franchise history behind Jason Kidd.

On Wednesday, Harden ensured the Nets closed out the first half of the NBA season with their 10th win in 11 games heading into the All-Star break.

The Nets, who have recorded seven straight road wins, are 24-13 ahead of Sunday's All-Star Game in Atlanta – only half a game behind the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference.

"So far, so good. Everything that I signed up for," added Harden. "Top to bottom, it's been great. Adversity has hit us as far as not missing any games, so we've been playing every other day schedule wise and then we're affected by injuries, guys in and out of the line-ups, crazy, weird things happening, but I think we've fought through adversity and we're in a really good position.

"Now we know each other a little bit better. Now it's time to get some rest, take care of your body and be ready to go. Second half is gonna be huge for us in the sense of how fast we can get off to a great start. Everybody goes through the same thing. There’' no excuses, and we're not here to make any."

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    PSG forward Neymar – who arrived from Barcelona for a world-record €222million in 2017 – is contracted until 2022 but both parties have been in negotiations regarding a fresh deal in the French capital.

    Neymar has continually been linked with a return to LaLiga powerhouse Barca, but the Brazil international confirmed his intentions to re-sign with PSG.

    "This [renewal with PSG] is no longer an issue," Neymar told ESPN Brazil after PSG eliminated holders Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

    "Obviously I feel very comfortable and at home here at PSG. I feel happier than I was before."

    PSG lost 1-0 in the return leg on Tuesday, but they still advanced on away goals after the blockbuster tie ended 3-3.

    Neymar was named man of the match after he had more shots (six), more shots on target (three) and made more key passes (three) than any other PSG player, hitting the crossbar and then the post during the first half.

    After PSG moved through to their second successive Champions League semi-final, Neymar celebrated with team-mate Leandro Paredes in front of Bayern star Joshua Kimmich.

    "It's funny because I didn't even celebrate to mess with him, it was more with Leo and I ended up celebrating with him. It was fate that put me close to [Kimmich]," Neymar said.

    "He said that their team was better, that they would win. He was sure that they would go to the semi-finals."

    PSG's elimination of Bayern is the first instance in Champions League history of the previous season's losing finalists eliminating the holders in the knockout stages.

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    PSG, though, failed to score at home in the Champions League for the first time in 24 games, since a 0-0 draw with Madrid in October 2015.

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    Champions League holders Bayern won 1-0 in the quarter-final second leg in Paris on Tuesday, but were knocked out on away goals after losing 3-2 in Munich.

    Muller said the disappointment was big as he bemoaned Bayern's inability to take their chances when they had them against last season's runner-up PSG.

    "We didn't do ourselves any favours with the first leg result," Muller told Sky Germany. "The disappointment is big."

    Bayern are the third consecutive reigning Champions League winners to fail to reach at least the semi-final stage the following season in the competition, something that has not happened since four successive teams failed between 2004-05 and 2007-8 (Porto, Liverpool, Barcelona and Milan).

    Muller added: "We scored one goal too few to advance. The course of the game was different from Munich. We didn't have so much pressure in the early stages.

    "We then had the situation we wanted and scored the goal just before half-time. We had a few chances just before half-time that we didn't take for different reasons.

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    PSG advanced to the semi-finals for the second successive season on away goals after the blockbuster tie ended 3-3 following Tuesday's 1-0 loss at home to Bayern.

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    PSG's elimination of Bayern is the first instance in Champions League history of the previous season's losing finalists eliminating the holders in the knockout stages.

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    PSG, though, failed to score at home in the Champions League for the first time in 24 games, since a 0-0 draw with Madrid in October 2015.

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    "We don't choose one or other rival. The one we play, we will try to beat them. If you are wondering we can or not beat them, we will see."

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