LOS ANGELES, United States, Jan 14 – The Brooklyn Nets limbered up for the expected arrival of James Harden in a blockbuster NBA trade with a 116-109 victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday.
Star forward Kevin Durant scored 26 points to lead seven Nets players in double figures — a performance all the more impressive with just nine Brooklyn players available.
News that the Houston Rockets would send their disgruntled star Harden to Brooklyn in a four-team deal electrified the league on Wednesday.
It had yet to be confirmed, but the four players reported to be on their way out of Brooklyn — Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs and Taurean Prince were unavailable and, according to coach Steve Nash, not at Madison Square Garden.
Durant, however, scoffed at the suggestion the proposed deal had made for “drama and chaos” around a team already dealing with the absence of Kyrie Irving for undisclosed personal reasons.
– Conference challenge –
“The game simply is enough for us,” Durant said. “The guys are coming out there enjoying playing every day no matter what the circumstance is.
“There’s a lot going on throughout the season, and in this world right now, but basketball is one thing everybody in this locker room enjoys.”
Durant, back this season after missing an entire campaign recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, played on back-to-back nights for the first time, logging 30 minutes and connecting on 10 of 18 shots from the field, including three from three-point range.
The Nets, with Durant and Irving healthy, were already expected to contend in the East.
The addition of former MVP Harden — the league’s top scorer the past three seasons — would enhance their ability to challenge in a conference led by the Milwaukee Bucks in the past two seasons.
The Bucks notched their third straight win, 110-101 over the Pistons in Detroit, on the back of a triple-double from two-time defending NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo delivered 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his 20th career triple-double.
Jrue Holiday added 21 points as five Bucks players scored in double digits in the comfortable win.
Brook Lopez drained three three-pointers in the first quarter and Milwaukee finished with 19 baskets from beyond the arc in a game they led by as many as 23 points.
It was just one lopsided result on a night that saw the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers rout the Thunder 128-99 in Oklahoma City.
The Lakers improved their league-leading record to 10-3 and remained unbeaten in seven games on the road — their best road start ever in a season.
– ‘Really good’ –
LeBron James scored 26 points with six rebounds and seven assists. Anthony Davis scored 12 of his 18 points in the first quarter to get the Lakers started.
Montrezl Harrell scored 21 off the bench as the Lakers followed up a dominant victory over the Rockets on Tuesday that had left Harden fuming.
“When we defend like that, it gives us the opportunity to get out and do what we do best on the offensive end, that’s get out and run and get in early transition,” James said.
“We had a low turnover game,” he added. “(When we) combine our defense with our execution on the offensive end, our precision, we’re a really good team.”
The Dallas Mavericks welcomed back big man Kristaps Porzingis with a 104-93 victory over the Hornets in Charlotte.
Porzingis scored 16 points in 21 minutes on the floor as he made his season debut after left knee surgery in October.
The 25-year-old added four rebounds and two blocked shots and Mavs point guard Luka Doncic fell just shy of a triple-double with 34 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in the wire-to-wire win.
The Hornets’ four-game winning streak ended painfully as star forward Gordon Hayward departed in the third quarter with a left hip strain and did not return.
In the late game, Damian Lillard scored a season high 40 points and 13 assists and the visiting Portland Trail Blazers stormed back from a 19-point, third-quarter deficit to earn a 132-126 victory over the Sacramento Kings.