Harden returns, comes off Nets’ bench against Spurs

Sports

Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris, left, confers with injured guard James Harden during a timeout in the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, May 8, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

NEW YORK (AP) — James Harden returned to action for the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night after missing more than a month with a strained right hamstring.

Harden came off the bench with 8:06 remaining in the first half against the San Antonio Spurs. It was the All-Star guard’s first game since April 5, when he aggravated the injury in a game against the New York Knicks.

Harden missed 18 straight games and 20 of the last 21. The Nets were only 12-9 during that span.

That’s far off their 27-7 mark in games in which Harden has played since the Nets acquired him from Houston in January.

Brooklyn coach Steve Nash chose to bring Harden off the bench, just as he did previously with Kevin Durant when he returned from a lengthy injury absence. That way, Harden could still be available late in the game if it was close, even while facing a minutes restriction.

It was Harden’s first time coming off the bench in an NBA game since the 2011-12 season, when he won the league’s Sixth Man award while playing for Oklahoma City.

Brooklyn has had its superstar trio of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the court together for only seven games. That didn’t change Wednesday, as Irving was ruled out after having to leave a victory in Chicago on Tuesday with a facial contusion.

Durant also played, even though Nash has said during the season his preference is that Durant not play both nights of back-to-backs.

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