The Joe Harris the Nets had grown accustomed to showed up.
The lights-out shooting guard teams have to account for. The marksman who makes opponents pay for double-teaming Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Wednesday night, the longest-tenured Net provided a reminder of how valuable he can be when his shots are falling. Shaking off his early season slump that had gone somewhat unnoticed amid Harden’s and Blake Griffin’s issues, and Kyrie Irving’s absence due to his refusal to abide by the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Harris found himself in an impressive win over the Hawks.
He attempted 10 shots and hit six of them — all 3-pointers — scoring a season-high 18 points and adding six rebounds, by far his best game of the young season. That came after a positive step forward in Sunday’s rout of the Pistons, 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting and a plus-15 rating.
Prior to the past two wins, Harris was struggling, shooting just 33.8 percent from the field, 34.7 percent from 3-point range and averaging 10.8 points per game. He was more active defensively against the Hawks, notching two steals and a block, equaling his output in those categories in the seven prior games.
Most importantly, of course, was Harris finding his range from deep. It is what has made him such a valuable Net, being able to stretch opposing defenses, serving as a deadly 3-point shooter teams have to account for.
“A lot of my shots are just created from guys facilitating. A lot of the actions I get is just from me playing with pace, running up and slipping out of screens,” said Harris, the Nets’ franchise leader in made 3-pointers. “Sometimes, I set them, sometimes the easiest shot you get is when you’re a screener. There were a couple instances [Wednesday night] where I’m setting pin-downs for Kevin and then Kevin just makes the right read, where if two guys collapse on him, I have a wide-open 3.
“So a lot of it is really me playing off of other guys. But that’s sort of been the way that I’ve played really my whole career to be honest. Sometimes, initiating action with your pace, scraping a good screener, that allows guys to get good, clean looks.”
Harris was asked following the game about Harden. He said he felt it was the result of so many new players, and Harden taking time to find his rhythm. The same could be said about Harris. The Nets don’t run a lot of plays for him. But when their offense is humming, when the ball is moving, it frequently leads to good looks for Harris, as it did against the Hawks. The Nets have scored 117 points in each of their past two games, equaling their most this year, and Harris has been a critical part of that production.
“I just think we needed some experience, just seeing what lineups work with what players, what sets work with each lineup,” Durant said. “I think that’s really what it is. You need to play games to understand that. We knew it was going to be a process for us. I am glad we were able to figure some stuff out the last few games and get back on the right page.”
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