Kevin Durant finished with 34 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists as the short-handed Brooklyn Nets beat Joel Embiid’s Philadelphia 76ers 114-105 on Thursday in New York.
Durant, the league’s leading scorer, delivered a key four-point play with 1:46 remaining and the game tied.
“It’s a challenge knowing how you’re going to come in to the games because a lot of these teams, they scheme for me a little different,” Durant said.
The first-place Nets were missing seven players because of Covid-19, leaving them with just nine players available for the game, played in front of a crowd of 17,000 at Barclays Center arena.
It was Brooklyn’s second straight game without starters James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre’ Bembry, along with reserves Bruce Brown, Paul Millsap, Jevon Carter and James Johnson.
Blake Griffin and Nic Claxton each tallied a season-high 17 points while Patty Mills scored 14 as Brooklyn won their fourth straight.
The Nets had just eight players available for Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors. Brooklyn is being forced to implement a hardship exception to try and add players to the roster.
“We can all hoop,” Claxton said of the reserve players being given bigger roles. “A lot of attention is going to KD (Durant) so we’re just making plays.”
Embiid had 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the 76ers’ third straight loss. Seth Curry scored 29 points. Embiid was averaging 27 points coming into Thursday’s contest.
The game was similar to Brooklyn’s 114-109 win over the Sixers in October when Durant earned a triple double of 29 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers said they are toughening their Covid-19 protocols.
“We want to be the team with the least (cases),” said Rivers, who lost Embiid for a long stretch due to Covid-19. “We lead still, I think, in Covid games off. That one stretch was brutal for us and now other teams are going through it. So it’s no fun.”
In Phoenix, the first-place Suns used a balanced attack as eight players scored in double figures in a 118-98 lopsided win over the Washington Wizards.
JaVale McGee finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, Deandre Ayton added 15 points and 10 boards, Chris Paul had 12 points and six assists as the Suns won for the 22nd time in the last 24 games.
Phoenix also moved into a tie with the idle Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference standings with a 23-5 record.
Bradley Beal finished with 26 points for Washington, which has lost four straight.
In Indianapolis, Caris LeVert tallied a season-high 31 points as the Indiana Pacers handed the Detroit Pistons their 13th consecutive loss, 122-113.
Justin Holiday had 17 points, while Myles Turner contributed 16 points, seven rebounds and four blocks for Indiana.