NEW YORK (AFP) – Kyrie Irving scored 40 points as the red-hot Brooklyn Nets picked up where they left off before the All-Star break by beating the Boston Celtics 121-109 on Thursday in New York.
With Kevin Durant sitting out his 10th straight game with an injury and James Harden struggling early with turnovers, Irving seized control in the second quarter in front of a pandemic-limited crowd of 1,300 at Barclays Center.
Former Celtic Irving has made a point this season of raising his level of play against Boston. Irving, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, also exploded for 37 points against his former team on Christmas Day.
“We are a resilient team,” said Irving. “It is a collective effort. We got to have each other’s backs on defence. When you get stops and then you take the ball up the floor in transition, there is nothing better.
“We have lots of offensive talent but we have to stay committed on defence.”
The Nets kicked off the first full day of NBA games in the second half of the season by scoring at least 120 points for the 23rd time this season. It was also the second straight time.
They also scored 120 points in their final game before the break.
Harden flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Landry Shamet scored 18 points and had nine three-pointers for the Nets, who made a total of 19 threes. Newly acquired Blake Griffin did not play.
It was the 24th time the Nets have made at least 15 threes in a game.
“We have a multitude of guys who can take us home and we trust in them,” Shamet said. “It’s just a matter of us putting an entire game together and putting us in the best position possible.”
Harden made all nine of his shots from the free-throw line, but finished with seven turnovers.
Jayson Tatum scored 31 points, guard Marcus Smith delivered 19 and Germany’s Daniel Theis finished with 17 points and eight rebounds for Boston, who had their four-game winning streak stopped.
“That’s a really good team,” Tatum said. “A couple of us didn’t shoot it well so obviously there’s some things we could do better.”
Elsewhere, All-Star Game MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to power the Milwaukee Bucks to a 134-101 rout of the New York Knicks in Milwaukee.
Antetokounmpo made eight of 12 shots from the field and went seven of seven from the free-throw line.
In Los Angeles, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 45 points as the Los Angeles Clippers clobbered the Golden State Warriors 130-104 in the first game for both teams since the All-Star break.
Leonard shot 10-of-17 from the floor for 28 points and George tallied 17 points for the Clippers who ended a three-game losing streak with the blowout win. Serge Ibaka added 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre each scored 15 points and Stephen Curry added 14 as the Warriors looked sluggish in losing for the fourth straight time. Curry shot six-of-16 from the floor and made just one of nine attempts from three-point range.
Los Angeles led by 16 points at halftime then busted the game open early in the second half by going on a 13-3 scoring run.
The Clippers outscored the Warriors 45-25 in the third quarter to take a commanding 104-68 lead into the fourth.