Stars in Hawks-Nets battle still adjusting to rule change

Sports

Early on, James Harden and Trae Young expressed some frustration about the NBA’s new rule change banning players from leaning into their defenders and getting foul calls on non-basketball plays.

Harden said “for sure” that he felt like the poster boy for the new rule change, while Young said last week: “It feels like (officials are) learning. I mean, I don’t know. It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating, for sure.”

Harden and Young are coming off some of their more productive showings of the season and will oppose each other Wednesday night when the Brooklyn Nets host the Atlanta Hawks.

Harden led the league in free-throw attempts in seven seasons with Houston, including his final six seasons with the Rockets. This season he has taken only 37 foul shots, though 22 of those attempts were in Brooklyn’s past two games.

Harden took 19 trips to the line when he scored 29 points in a 105-98 win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday. In Sunday’s 117-91 rout of the Detroit Pistons, Harden only took three free throws while totaling 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his first triple-double this season and 59th career.

Harden’s triple-double helped the Nets win consecutive games for the first time and it came in their most complete game of the season. Brooklyn set a franchise record by shooting 65.3 percent as Kevin Durant scored 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting before being ejected for a flagrant foul in the third quarter.

“I’m just playing,” Harden said after his 13th triple-double with the Nets. “The confidence and just my rhythm and all that is coming back simultaneously together. It just feels much, much better. I knew I was going to have a slow start because I wasn’t playing a lot. But I knew the work was going to catch up and, ultimately, I was going to get back to where I need to be.”

Young’s 546 free-throw attempts were third last season and he was fourth in attempts two seasons ago when Harden attempted 800. This season, Young has attempted 37 foul shots through seven games and last week was fined $15,000 for making contact with an official after not getting a foul call he might have been awarded last season.

On Monday, Young got to the line a season-high 11 times and scored 26 points when Atlanta snapped a two-game losing streak with a 118-111 win over the visiting Washington Wizards. Young made 7 of 16 shots after hitting just 11 of 33 in Atlanta’s losses at Washington and Philadelphia.

One of Young’s best games coincided with the Hawks making all of their season-high 29 free throws after entering the game 29th at 15.8 free throw attempts per contest.

“This is the basketball we’re capable of playing every night,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “This is the basketball that we want to play every night. We didn’t settle for the quick, contested jump shots. We didn’t settle for the pull-up. We got to the basket, we got to the rim and we got to the free-throw line.”

The Nets are 10-2 in the past 12 meetings, a stretch that includes Young’s 47-point showing in Brooklyn on Dec. 21, 2019.

–Field Level Media

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