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Harden’s Nets return lasts 4 minutes (hamstring) 

NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets star James Harden played just four minutes before he was ruled out for the remainder of Monday night’s 114-112 win against the New York Knicks because of right hamstring tightness.

Harden’s brief return came after he missed the Nets’ past two games while dealing with the same tightness.

Before the game, Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said Harden would not be on a minutes restriction and the team would monitor him throughout the night.

“We definitely don’t want to wear him out,” Nash said before tipoff. “So we’ll try our best, which is very difficult to do sometimes. We’ll try to limit his minutes if we have the opportunity.”

Nash reiterated both pregame and postgame that the imaging on Harden’s hamstring did not reveal structural damage, so the team looked to him and its training staff to decide when he felt well enough to play.

“So who knows — this may linger, it may be all behind us like we thought it was before the game,” Nash said. “But it’s just one of those things where the scan is clean, the strength tests are clean but he feels something, so we’re going to err on the side of caution.”

The Nets were already without Blake Griffin (injury maintenance), Kevin Durant (hamstring strain), Tyler Johnson (knee soreness) and Landry Shamet (ankle sprain). Nash said that he does not anticipate playing Griffin in both halves of any remaining back-to-back games.

Harden, one of the frontrunners for league MVP, entered Monday’s game averaging 26.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 11.2 assists for the Nets.

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