Kevin Durant’s 34 points propelled Brooklyn to victory over the 76ers on Thursday night, as the shorthanded Nets outlasted the Joel Embid-led team from Philadelphia in a 114-105 contest.
Durant, a leading candidate for MVP, recorded 34 points, eight assists, and 11 rebounds against the 15-15 76ers — bringing the Nets to an Eastern Conference-best 21-8 record.
The All-Star forward’s impressive night came on the heels of a triple-double, along with a 51-point performance in the Nets previous two games, respectively.
The win came as the Nets were missing seven players because of COVID-19-related absences, including James Harden, Bruce Brown, Paul Millsap, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Bembry, Jevon Carter, and James Johnson.
The Nets reserve players managed to step up, as veteran Blake Griffin and 22-year-old Nic Claxton both recorded 17 points, which marked season highs for both players.
Brooklyn took a 66-48 lead into halftime, and never looked back — leading 85-79 after three quarters, and keeping their offensive firepower up in the fourth to win comfortably as the home crowd cheered on.
The 76ers, who have been dealing with their own roster problems as star power forward Ben Simmons has refused to play, have been playing lackluster basketball this year relative to their preseason expectations, as Embiid finished second place in MVP voting last season, and was expected to carry the team to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
That has not panned out for Philadelphia, as their 15-15 record puts them on the edge of playoff contention.
The Nets, however, have overcome significant adversity, from COVID-19 ravaging their lineup, to unvaccinated Kyrie Irving missing the entire season, and have remained the conference’s dominant superteam.