NBA

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant makes long-awaited return

By Sports Desk April 07, 2021

Kevin Durant will make his first appearance in 23 games after being named in the Brooklyn Nets' starting line-up to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.

Nets superstar and former NBA MVP Durant has been sidelined since February 13 due to a hamstring strain, which also forced him to sit out last month's All-Star Game.

But Durant will make his long-awaited return midweek as the star-studded Nets – without James Harden (hamstring) – welcome the Pelicans to Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Durant was averaging 29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for the Nets in 2020-21 prior to the injury, while he was also shooting a career-high 43.4 per cent from three-point range.

The Nets and rivals Philadelphia 76ers share 35-16 records atop the Eastern Conference.

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    Nikola Jokic and the whole Denver Nuggets roster have to be better at channelling their frustrations after a baffling collapse against the Boston Celtics, head coach Michael Malone has said.

    The Nuggets were seemingly coasting to a ninth straight NBA win when a three-pointer from Facundo Campazzo late in the third quarter had them 79-65 in front.

    But things unravelled spectacularly, with the Celtics hitting the final nine points of the third and the first six of the fourth to take the lead in the game for the first time.

    The Celtics went on an astonishing 31-3 run and outscored the Nuggets 31-8 in an outstanding fourth quarter to win 105-87 against one of the league's hottest sides.

    Jokic, among the leading contenders for the MVP award this season, was sat down by Malone with a little over four minutes remaining for going after the officials on back-to-back possessions before a timeout.

    Malone had sympathy with his star player but said the whole team need to keep their discipline in the heat of battle.

    "Regarding Nikola, he gets frustrated with the referees and what he perceives to be a lack of calls, and you understand that," Malone said. 

    "But that can never take you away from your duty as a basketball player. So that's something that he, myself and all of us can definitely be better at."

    For his part, Jokic – who had 17, points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds – believes the arguments with the officials are just par for the course in the NBA.

    "I think the whole 30 teams are complaining and whining," he said. 

    "We are just one of them. It's just how the game goes. They're doing their job. We need to do our job. Sometimes it's miscommunication, like arguments, of course, like in every job."

    The Nuggets were playing for a sixth time in nine nights and were without Jamal Murray (knee) for a fourth straight game.

    Malone again stressed the need for his team to keep their cool, but is already itching to get back into it.

    "We have to be better," he said. "They turned up the heat, got into us, switched everything, and we allowed that to kill our offensive flow, and then we started complaining and whining, not getting back. Not competing.

    "[But] the best thing about the NBA is we get on a plane this afternoon, go to Golden State and try to right the ship and play at a much higher level than we played today."

  • George and Morris fuel Clippers, Celtics snap Nuggets' eight-game streak with 31-3 run George and Morris fuel Clippers, Celtics snap Nuggets' eight-game streak with 31-3 run

    Paul George and Marcus Morris Sr. combined to lead the Los Angeles Clippers past the Detroit Pistons 131-124 in NBA action on Sunday.

    Clippers star George posted 32 points – his third consecutive game of 30-plus points – as the Los Angeles franchise rallied for their fifth successive victory.

    Morris put up a season-high 33 points for the Clippers, who capped a nine-game homestand against the lowly Pistons.

    Veteran Morris nailed six three-pointers and surpassed 1,000 for his career as star Kawhi Leonard was rested.

    Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets had their eight-game winning streak snapped by the Boston Celtics in a 105-87 defeat.

    The Celtics used a remarkable 31-3 run to take down the Nuggets on the road in Denver, where Jayson Tatum (illness) and Jaylen Brown (knee) battled to inspire Boston.

    Denver led 79-65 late in the third quarter before capitulating, outscored 31-8 in the final period.

    Nikola Jokic's triple-double of 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds were not enough for the Nuggets.

     

    Zion flexes muscles

    Zion Williamson had 38 points as the New Orleans Pelicans rallied past the Cleveland Cavaliers 116-109. Williamson, who scored 25 points in the first half and fell one shy of his career best, made 16 of 22 shots, while collecting nine rebounds and tallying four assists.

    Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard (1,983) passed Dirk Nowitzki (1,982) for 11th on the NBA's all-time list for threes. The Trail Blazers lost 107-98 at home to the Miami Heat.

    Jonas Valanciunas produced a big performance, but the Memphis Grizzlies went down 132-125 to the Indiana Pacers. He recorded a career-high tying 34 points and 22 rebounds. Valanciunas posted his second career game with 30-plus points and 20-plus rebounds and is the second player in Grizzlies history with multiple 30-20 regular-season games after Zach Randolph (three).

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    Sunday's results

    Atlanta Hawks 105-101 Charlotte Hornets
    Boston Celtics 105-87 Denver Nuggets
    New Orleans Pelicans 116-109 Cleveland Cavaliers
    Milwaukee Bucks 124-87 Orlando Magic
    New York Knicks 102-96 Toronto Raptors
    San Antonio Spurs 119-117 Dallas Mavericks
    Indiana Pacers 132-125 Memphis Grizzlies
    Minnesota Timberwolves 121-117 Chicago Bulls
    Los Angeles Clippers 131-124 Detroit Pistons
    Miami Heat 107-98 Portland Trail Blazers

     

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    Irving is set to sit out the Timberwolves clash due to personal reasons, the Nets announced on Sunday.

    The 2016 champion and seven-time All-Star missed three games last month because of a family matter, with Irving playing in 38 of Brooklyn's 53 games this season.

    Irving – who was ejected from Saturday's 126-101 loss to defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers – is averaging 27.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game in 2020-21.

    The star-studded Nets – already missing superstar James Harden (hamstring) – will also be without LaMarcus Aldridge against the Timberwolves.

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    The Nets and Philadelphia 76ers both share 36-17 win-loss records atop the Eastern Conference.

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