CLEVELAND • Kyrie Irving finally returned after a seven-game absence due to "family and personal stuff going on" but the Cleveland Cavaliers spoiled the debut of the Brooklyn Nets' "Big Three" with a 147-135 National Basketball Association (NBA) win on Wednesday.
Collin Sexton hit the game-tying three-pointer with 1.2 seconds left in the first overtime and scored 15 of his career-high 42 points in the second overtime as the hosts (7-7) jumped to sixth in the Eastern Conference, one place behind their opponents (9-7).
Kevin Durant paced his team with 38 points, while Irving had just a point fewer and Harden posted his second triple-double in three games as a Net with 21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
The trio played the final 18-plus minutes but Durant missed a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer in the first overtime and despite their offence clicking, defensively, they need more work.
Many observers had tipped the Nets as championship contenders even before Harden joined earlier this month.
However, former Cleveland star Irving knows adjustments have to be made in order for the team, who last reached the NBA Finals in 2002-03, to live up to their potential and win their maiden championship.
Referencing how the 2014-15 Cavaliers team, despite adding LeBron James and Kevin Love to form their own "Big Three", had a slow start before eventually reaching the NBA Finals, the All-Star guard said: "I was in my fourth year at that point when we got together and it was just new.
"We were throwing our talent everywhere. It took time, and it took communication... it took resolve, compromise and sacrifice."
On his hiatus, Irving said he did not want to go into details on why he had to take a break just weeks into the season but insisted he was "excited for the future".
Nets coach Steve Nash agreed there was a lot more room for improvement, saying: "We had breakdowns all over the place. We've got a lot of work to do. We know that."
One of the team's issues is that because of the Harden trade and a season-ending injury to Spencer Dinwiddie, their bench, which was outscored by Cleveland 44-10, is now weak.
The Cleveland bench outscored Brooklyn's by 34 points, undoing the 96-point effort from Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden.
As such, Nash was also forced to play Durant, Irving and Harden 40, 38 and 41 minutes in regulation respectively.
That workload is unsustainable for every game as the Nets will have to practice "load management" at some point in the season.
However, Durant remains encouraged by the chemistry that was evident on the court, adding: "It felt right. Felt perfect, felt like we belong together. It felt like just joining together is going to be fun. It was a tough start, especially (as) it was an up-and-down game for us."