Brooklyn Nets' James Harden, still dealing with some hand pain, returns with 22 points in loss to Phoenix Suns

PHOENIX -- After missing two straight games because of a hamstring injury and a right hand strain, Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden scored 22 points in 37 minutes during a 121-111 loss to the Suns on Tuesday night.

Harden admitted after the game that he is still dealing with some pain in the hand but thinks he'll be able to play Wednesday night against the Sacramento Kings.

"I couldn't move my hand, that's why I didn't play the last game," Harden said. "At all. But I can move it, I'm playing."

Harden went just 6-for-19 from the field in Tuesday's loss, the Nets' fifth straight defeat. Harden said the initial hand injury took place a couple weeks ago, but it didn't cause him to miss time until after the Nets flew to San Francisco and he woke up with discomfort in the hand early Saturday morning.

"It happened probably a few weeks ago," Harden said of the injury. "Probably two weeks ago. Just from falling, getting to the basket and hitting the ground, so it was already hurting me, but I was just playing through it. And I lifted weights the day before the game, before we left on the road, and I probably just irritated it or whatnot, so that next morning I woke up and I really couldn't move my hand at all.

"It actually woke me up pretty early. So I was just calling the trainer just to figure out what the hell was going on, and then I got an MRI and it was a strain so it's calmed down, I'm back on the court, just got to keep going."

Harden said he would continue to ice the hand "to keep the swelling down" and listen to the Nets training staff.

"I thought he looked good," Nets coach Steve Nash said of Harden. "I think it's a tough assignment. They're long, a lot of two-way players, and they take away his space -- and without Kevin [Durant] or Joe [Harris] out there to draw more attention, it's a lot on him. But I thought he looked good and did a lot of good things and was close to having a huge game, so, proud of his effort."

Nets guard Kyrie Irving acknowledged that the Nets' Big Three of himself, Harden and Durant think about the fact that they haven't played much together "daily."

Durant is currently out for at least a few more weeks because of a sprained MCL in his left knee. And Irving, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, has played in only nine road games this season since rejoining the team last month on a part-time basis. He is not able to play in Brooklyn's home games because of the New York City vaccination mandate.

The Nets are 13-3 over the past two years when the trio actually plays together.

"To be honest with you, I hate that I even have to answer that question," Irving said. "We think about it daily. It's not something that is shortsighted for us. We think about the long term and how well we jell together as a trio. And when we say as a trio we're not excluding anybody else on the team, but we just know that the energy runs through us, and when we're flowing out there and we're playing -- I think James said it last year -- there's not a lot of teams that could be out on the floor with us that can match up very well with us.

"That's just the confidence we have in one another when all three of us are healthy and we're playing at a high level. And we've only played a few games where, I don't know if it's more than 10 or anything like that -- but it's definitely on our wish list, man. And we just have to stay patient and just not lose that confidence that all the pieces will come together at the right time."