James Harden didn’t exactly fill up the Game 5 box score on Tuesday night, but his impact went beyond the numbers.
The Nets star, who had essentially missed Brooklyn’s entire Eastern Conference semifinal series against Milwaukee while dealing with right hamstring tightness, was surprisingly upgraded from out to available ahead of the pivotal playoff matchup. He clearly still had some physical limitations, as he posted five points, eight assists and six rebounds while shooting just 1 of 10 from the field (0 of 8 on 3-pointers) in the Nets’ 114-108 win.
But simply seeing Harden battling through his injury for 46 minutes lifted his teammates’ spirits, including Kevin Durant, who exploded for 49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and two blocks.
“It inspired me this morning when he said he was giving it a go and he was thinking about giving it a go,” Durant told reporters after Game 5. “I think all of us felt like, first, we wanted him to be healthy and make sure this is the right decision for him. But once he got out there and tested it out, we were all happy for him, and we knew that would give us an extra spark.
“It was one of those performances from James that, in the stat sheet, it may not look like it was great, but just his energy, his talk, his communication throughout the whole game was just on point. I’m glad he was out there with us and can’t wait for Game 6.”
Kevin Durant reflects on the “inspiring” 46-minute outing from James Harden tonight with his hamstring injury
“In the stat sheet, it may not look like it was great, but just his energy, his talk, his communication throughout the whole game was on point” pic.twitter.com/ouDGbqZqa7
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) June 16, 2021
Harden didn’t register his first field goal until the 7:21 mark of the third quarter, but he did throw a few sharp passes that led to buckets. His ability to operate as Brooklyn’s point guard took at least some offensive responsibility away from Durant.
“We trust James handling the ball and setting people up so much that we probably put too much on him in that first half,” Durant said. “But I think he settled down in the second, got his legs, got his rhythm.”
When asked whether he will be ready for Game 6, Harden admitted that his minute total was high, but he is prepared to do whatever is necessary in order to help his team.
“I didn’t expect to play, so 46 [minutes] is a lot. But I’m built for it,” Harden said. “So just get some rest and get my proper treatment. Credit to our trainers and things like that. They’ve been doing an unbelievable job of preparing me. Just get some rest and give it another shot in Game 6, try to come up with the same results.”