Brooklyn Boro

COVID-ravaged Nets outlast Raptors

Durant and company pull out OT thriller at Barclays

December 15, 2021 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Down seven players due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the Brooklyn Nets didn’t look for any excuses Tuesday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

They simply looked to Kevin Durant.

And the front-runner for NBA Most Valuable Player honors delivered.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Durant produced his 14th career triple-double, Patty Mills forced overtime with a clutch 3-pointer and the Eastern Conference leaders pulled out a 131-129 victory in front of 17,325 fans on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

“I like how we responded throughout the whole game,” said Durant, who finished with 34 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists on a night the Nets desperately needed him to be the best player in the world.

Brooklyn was without James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Bembry, Paul Millsap, Bruce Brown, Jevon Carter and James Johnson, leaving Durant to upgrade himself from questionable to all in despite a sore right ankle.

“I felt like it was something I could play on, so I knew I was going to play this morning,” Durant revealed. “I hate that my teammates are out. I wish everybody was playing.”

Instead, everybody just continued to marvel at Durant’s mastery.

He played a game-high 48 minutes on an ankle that could have kept him sidelined under less dire circumstances, refusing to let Brooklyn (20-8) sink into oblivion after Toronto appeared to take control by outscoring the Nets 44-25 in the third quarter.

The Nets fought back over the final 12 minutes, but still needed Mills, who finished with 30 points, to drill a shot from beyond the arc with 13 ticks remaining in regulation just to have a shot at their third consecutive win.

Patty Mills (left) hit a game-saving 3-pointer and Kevin Durant did the rest as Brooklyn outlasted Toronto in overtime Tuesday. AP Photo by Adam Hunger

Durant scored Brooklyn’s first six points in the extra session, including a 17-foot jumper with 2:45 left that put the Nets ahead to stay, 126-124.

Mills followed with a 16-footer 30 seconds later and Brooklyn held on thereafter, improving to 9-5 at Barclays this year and kickstarting a five-game homestand that could force them to close gaps in the lineup throughout.

On Tuesday, Brooklyn’s fill-in heroes included Kessler Edwards (16 points), Blake Griffin (13) and Nic Claxton (13).

“Turning it up in the fourth quarter and overtime, man. … I’m so proud to just be a part of this group and play with these young dudes,” said Durant.

Fred VanVleet scored 31 points and Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr. added 25 apiece for Toronto (12-15), which was also bidding for its third straight win.

But once Durant decided he was ready to go, he proved more than capable of carrying the Nets with him.

“Man, it was amazing to be out there,” he marveled.

Even more amazing to watch for the Brooklyn hoops fanatics filling Barclays Tuesday night.

James Harden was one of seven Nets out of the lineup Tuesday night due to a COVID-19 outbreak. AP Photo by John Bazemore

NOTHING BUT NET: Though the return status of the Nets’ missing players is still a mystery, Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash intimated before Tuesday’s game that the virus had also affected “a couple coaches and a couple staff (members)”, who were in COVID-19 protocol. … The Nets will host Philadelphia here on Thursday before welcoming Orlando on Saturday and Denver Sunday. Brooklyn will finish up the stand Tuesday night vs. Washington. … Mills had his fourth career 30-point game and first since 2019, when he was a member of the San Antonio Spurs.

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