James Harden insisted the best is yet to come for the Brooklyn Nets and their 'Big Three' as the former NBA MVP familiarises himself with fellow superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The Nets have emerged as serious championship contenders after acquiring Harden in a blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets earlier in January, teaming him up with Durant and Irving.

There have been teething problems – Harden, Durant and Irving are all dominant ball-handlers – but the Nets completed a sweep of the Miami Heat thanks to Monday's 98-85 win.

Harden posted 20 points and eight assists, Durant had 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Irving put up 16 points of his own at Barclays Center.

Asked about figuring out his role with the Nets, having only spent a matter of weeks in Brooklyn, eight-time All-Star Harden said: "I was in I was in a role for eight years, controlling the ball, dominating the ball. Now it's a different experience for me, but it's still great.

"It's still basketball at the end of the day. And I'm lucky to be able to do more than just one thing on the basketball court. So, it's fun. Like I said before it's a game within the game, you got to pick and choose when to be aggressive, when it gets your shooters going, when to let KD and Kyrie get going.

"Once we get a rhythm and flow and we kind of start to feel each other out more, it'll be a lot easier for us, and our team will have a lot more flow throughout the course of the game.

"Right now we're trying to find it, and we show a really good glimpses of it, but it'll be more consistent."

Two-time NBA Finals MVP Durant – also a league MVP – stayed hot as the Nets took down the Heat again.

Durant registered his 14th consecutive double-double, becoming the fourth player in league history to do so alongside Wilt Chamberlain, Adrian Dantley and Dominique Wilkins.

On former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate Harden, Durant added: "Feels like he just transferred to a new school and he's trying to figure out the curriculum.

"And it's going to take some time to figure out who your teammates are, what your rotations are in the game, when to be aggressive, when to score, pass.

"As a scorer and the focal point of your offense, sometimes the balance between score and pass -- you got to figure that out each night."

Brooklyn's first-year head coach Steve Nash said of Harden: "Would I like James to be more aggressive? Yes. Will he be more aggressive in time? I think so.

"I think once he gets more comfortable with his team-mates, when he gets in better shape, when he's adapted to this whole new environment, we'll see an improved James scoring the ball."

LeBron James made history following his season-high performance as defending NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers stayed perfect on the road with a 115-108 win at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James posted 46 points to lead the Lakers past former team the Cavaliers in Cleveland, where the Los Angeles franchise improved to 10-0 away from home on Monday.

Lakers superstar James – who had 21 points in the fourth quarter – became the first player in NBA history to tally 46 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two blocks, two steals and seven three-pointers made, per Stats Perform.

Behind James' mammoth display, the Lakers became the sixth team in history to start the season with a 10-plus game winning streak on the road.

Anthony Davis contributed a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Andre Drummond led the Cavaliers with 25 points and 17 rebounds.

Elsewhere, Kevin Durant stayed hot as the Brooklyn Nets took down last season's NBA Finals participants the Miami Heat 98-85.

Durant registered his 14th consecutive double-double, becoming the fourth player in league history to do so alongside Wilt Chamberlain, Adrian Dantley and Dominique Wilkins.

Bam Adebayo's double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds were not enough for the Heat, who have lost three straight.

 

Red-hot Doncic matches MJ

Luka Doncic recorded another triple-double (35 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds) in the Dallas Mavericks' 117-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets. It was his 31st career triple-double. Doncic tied Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (16) for the eighth-most 30-point triple-doubles in NBA history. The 21-year-old Mavericks star also matched Magic Johnson (31) for the second-most triple-doubles before the age of 23.

Stephen Curry put on a show with a game-high 36 points to fuel the Golden State Warriors' 130-108 victory at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was 11-of-21 from the field, while he made seven of 12 three-point attempts.

The Indiana Pacers beat the Toronto Raptors 129-114 thanks to Malcolm Brogdon's career-high 36 points.

Jerami Grant (25 points, eight rebounds and five assists) and Delon Wright (28 points, seven rebounds and nine assists) became the first Detroit Pistons dup to record 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game since Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince in 2012. The Pistons upstaged the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers 119-104.

 

Curry struggles as Philly feel Embiid's absence

Embiid sat out due to back tightness, and the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers fell. Seth Curry – Philadelphia's best shooter – was just two-of-10 from the field, while he only made one of four shots from beyond the arc for seven points.

 

From way back!

Stephen Curry was at his brilliant best against the Timberwolves – a long-range three the icing on the cake for the two-time MVP.

 

Monday's results

Detroit Pistons 119-104 Philadelphia 76ers              
Indiana Pacers 129-114 Toronto Raptors
Orlando Magic 117-108 Charlotte Hornets
Brooklyn Nets 98-85 Miami Heat
Los Angeles Lakers 115-108 Cleveland Cavaliers
Denver Nuggets 117-113 Dallas Mavericks
Boston Celtics 119-103 Chicago Bulls
Golden State Warriors 130-108 Minnesota Timberwolves
Oklahoma City Thunder 125-122 Portland Trail Blazers
Sacramento Kings-Memphis Grizzlies (postponed)
San Antonio Spurs-New Orleans Pelicans (postponed)

 

Clippers at Hawks

The Los Angeles Clippers (13-4) will look to make it eight consecutive wins when they visit the Atlanta Hawks (8-8) on Tuesday.

Kyrie Irving revelled in a hard-fought victory for the Brooklyn Nets over the Miami Heat after he went into a "winning" zone in the fourth quarter.

The Nets got back on track after consecutive defeats to the Cleveland Cavaliers by overcoming the Heat 128-124 on Saturday.

Up against an inspired Bam Adebayo, who scored a career-best 41 points, Brooklyn relied on the star power of Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden to get them over the line.

"It's not every day you see this collection of guys playing together in NBA history, so we want to take full advantage of that," Irving told reporters.

Irving proved decisive, with 18 of his 28 points coming in the fourth quarter, including three three-pointers.

"It's winning time," Irving told reporters while explaining his mentality in the final quarter.

"I've always said that throughout my career. When it gets down to that point, obviously you just want to buckle down on the defensive end, get stops, and I felt like we did that.

"We had two losses where we had to learn a lot very quickly and we just moved on to the next night. I feel like we gave the effort in spurts, and obviously we want to have more consistency in that, and that'll take time. I'm happy with the effort."

While Durant topped the Nets' scoring with 31 points, Harden also stepped up to the plate, posting 12 points and 11 assists with seven rebounds.

"It feels good not to have to score so much to give ourselves a chance to win a game," eight-time All-Star Harden said.

"I can go out there and just be a playmaker and shoot my shot when it's available and still get guys involved, and still have a chance to win the game.

"That's a change. But for me just being the player that I am, impacting the game in other ways other than scoring."

Durant, meanwhile, hailed Irving as the difference-maker.

"You've seen how special and talented and hard-working Kyrie is," Durant told reporters. "He works on all of those shots every day and he comes in with that mentality that especially late in the games he'll have to knock those down for us.

"He's an all-world player, he's a great team-mate but when the ball is in his hands late in the game, our team is just so unpredictable because he can make the pass, he can score in the mid-range, score in the three-point area, get to the basket and we've got weapons around him that makes it tough to guard.

"We're going to need that from him going forward and he was phenomenal in the fourth."

Though the Nets' star trio ultimately claimed the win, Miami's Adebayo was at his best, finishing with five rebounds and nine assists in addition to his 41 points.

"It was about time Bam had 40 in terms of getting a lot of those moves that he's been working on in the offseason," said Irving, who – against coronavirus protocols – attempted to swap jerseys with Adebayo on the court before a Heat official intervened.

"Just watching him grow since high school, be able to take over at this point for kind of an undermanned Miami team, it's good to see."

The Los Angeles Lakers eased to a win in the NBA on Saturday, while the Brooklyn Nets overcame the Miami Heat.

Anthony Davis posted 37 points in 28 minutes as the Lakers brushed past the Chicago Bulls 101-90 to improve to 9-0 on the road.

LeBron James had a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds in the comfortable win.

The Lakers (13-4) sit top of the Western Conference ahead of the red-hot Utah Jazz (12-4).

The Nets returned to winning ways after back-to-back losses, overcoming the Heat 128-124.

Kyrie Irving had 18 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, while Kevin Durant (31 points), Joe Harris (23 points) and James Harden (12 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds) were also key contributors.

Heat star Bam Adebayo was in impressive form with 41 points.

 

Jazz win eighth straight, Embiid and Jokic star again

The Jazz made it eight straight wins as Donovan Mitchell recorded 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a 127-108 victory over the Golden State Warriors.

Warriors star Stephen Curry (24 points) passed Reggie Miller to move into second place for most three-pointers made in NBA history.

The Philadelphia 76ers improved to 12-5 as Joel Embiid had a double-double of 33 points and 14 rebounds in a 114-110 win against the Detroit Pistons.

Nikola Jokic's impressive season continued. The center had 29 points, 22 rebounds and six assists as the Denver Nuggets beat the Phoenix Suns 120-112 after overtime.

 

Grant struggles

Jerami Grant struggled from the field for the Pistons. He went three-of-19 for just 11 points in 35 minutes in the loss to the 76ers.

 

Curry passes Miller

Curry moved past Miller after making his 2,561st three-pointer in the NBA. Only Ray Allen (2,973) has made more.

Saturday's results

Minnesota Timberwolves 120-110 New Orleans Pelicans
Philadelphia 76ers 114-110 Detroit Pistons
Brooklyn Nets 128-124 Miami Heat
Houston Rockets 133-108 Dallas Mavericks
Utah Jazz 127-108 Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers 101-90 Chicago Bulls
Denver Nuggets 120-112 Phoenix Suns

 

Hawks at Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks (9-6) have dropped back-to-back games ahead of hosting the Atlanta Hawks (8-7) on Sunday.

James Harden says the Brooklyn Nets must be "more engaged" on defense after a second successive loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers again exposed their weakness.

According to Harden, who made the point repeatedly in a brisk post-game news conference, it is communication that the Nets need to work on to reach their potential.

With Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in their ranks, such potential is obviously something very special indeed.

But as Harden stressed, all their scoring power will be negated if they leak too many points to the opposition, as they did in sliding to Friday's 125-113 defeat.

It was a result that sent Brooklyn sliding to 9-8 this season, and recent arrival Harden hopes there can be improvement in the games ahead.

He said: "Our communication, our position, we never really had practice time so we're learning on the fly.

"It's just constant effort. We've got to be more accurate on loose basketballs, do a better job on rebounding basketballs, and then do a better job of keeping our man in front of us.

"There are some of the aspects we can get better on. If we do those things, then the schemes and all those plays we can figure those out later, the principles are those small things.

"I've got to be a little more aggressive. Honestly, our problem isn't offense. We scored 113 points tonight and even in the last game it was more than enough to win the game.

"Defensively we have to be more engaged."

That last game, to which Harden referred, was the 147-135 double-overtime loss to the Cavs.

The former Houston Rockets player and eight-time All-Star said it is "little tweaks" that are required, starting from Saturday's clash with the Miami Heat.

"Individually, our communication from the other four guys - the four guys that aren't guarding the ball - has to communicate on where the help is, where to send the dribbler, and just communicate, have each other's back," Harden said.

"Once our communication from all five guys are in sync, our defense will be that much better.

"But it seems like we're on an island out there and we have to all do a better job, including myself, of communicating and helping each other out defensively and that will happen."

With Durant absent after an Achilles problem, Harden bagged 19 points and 11 assists and Irving scored a game-high 38 points.

And while the combination of the three Nets superstars seems sure to click, Harden knows what the priority must be.

"As much as we can talk about scoring - we're very good at scoring - we've got to round up some stops and once we get that going we'll be in the lead on both sides of the ball, but right now our problem is defense," Harden said.

"[On Saturday] we've got another chance to get better."

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash was reluctant to overreact after another humbling loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he insisted his star-studded line-up must improve as Kyrie Irving embraces the challenge.

Despite boasting Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant, the Nets were swept by the Cavaliers in Cleveland following Friday's 125-113 defeat.

After losing 147-135 to the Cavaliers in double overtime on Wednesday, the Nets were again beaten by Cleveland, this time in the absence of Durant (Achilles rehab).

Despite boasting All-Stars and former MVPs in Irving, Harden and Durant, Brooklyn's defensive fragilities were exposed after being outrebounded 50-29 on Friday, while the Nets allowed 134 points in the paint across the two games.

"I don't want to overreact — but it is something we have to continue to chip away at," first-year coach Nash said afterwards. "We have to build that resolve, that hunger that desire to win some hustle battles, to win the turnover margin, to win the rebounding margin. Win in other ways.

"We've got a lot of things to work on. There's a lot to clean up. It's very early. It's relatively knew having Ky back after two weeks. James joining the team. Kevin sitting out tonight. It’s a lot thrown at us. So, you know, I don't want to overreact, but we are going to urge the guys to clean up as much as we can the hustle areas. But also, schematically, just continue to refine and get better and you know how this league is.

"A few days ago, we were on a four-game winning streak and now we under performed in two games. So, we've got to find a way to get ourselves playing a little cleaner, a little sharper, trying to clean up some of these categories that we're not competing well enough in."

Irving led the Nets with a game-high 38 points on the road, while Harden put up 19 points and 11 assists – his fourth double-double in as many appearances since joining in a blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets as Brooklyn fell to 9-8 in the Eastern Conference.

Nash added: "You see you see the records. We've done well against better teams. But we've talked to them about having a target on our backs and that you're gonna get people's best shots. They'll be excited to play the guys that we have on our roster. So there's a certain element of that.

"We have to make them aware of that discrepancy in the effort against the team we're playing, but also just overall that we stick to what we will what our path is. And it's not a normal season, so it's not going to be two days between games sometimes where you can practice. It's going to be very rare. We're gonna have to really keep chipping away. It's gonna be small margins and small growth, but continually have that be our plan and not get sideways over a couple of losses.

"So we got to demand, we got to expect, we got to push and at the same time we got to understand that it's not going to be straightforward this season because of the parameters that were facing."

The Nets have dropped consecutive games since Irving returned from a seven-game absence due to personal reasons, and he said: "Whatever we have to do moving forward, like I said this was two humbling losses.

"… now we lost tonight's game, back-to-back. Now what are we gonna do? Nothing more but to pick ourselves up out there as competitors, go home, talk about it. And now we play in less than 24 hours. So I'm looking forward to the challenge with my team-mates."

Collin Sexton made history after helping the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Brooklyn Nets for the second time in three days, 125-113 in the NBA on Friday.

After scoring 42 points in a double-overtime upset of the Nets on Wednesday, Cavaliers star Sexton was at it again with 25 points and nine assists against Brooklyn in Cleveland.

Sexton became the first player in Cavs history to post 20-plus points in each of his first 10 games of the season.

It was another tough outing for the star-studded Nets, who crashed to a second consecutive loss since Kyrie Irving returned following a seven-game absence.

In the absence of Kevin Durant (Achilles rehab), Irving had a game-high 38 points, while James Harden put up 19 points and 11 assists – his fourth double-double in four games since joining the Nets in a blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets.

Joel Embiid produced another MVP-calibre performance as the Philadelphia 76ers overcame Eastern Conference rivals the Boston Celtics 122-110.

Embiid dominated with 38 points and 11 rebounds, after his 42-point double-double against the Celtics midweek. The three-time All-Star was 11-of-15 from the field, while he made both of his three-point attempts.

Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with a game-high 42 points in Philadelphia.

 

Young and Capela soar for Hawks, Kawhi fuels Clippers

Trae Young posted a season-high 43 points and Clint Capela recorded 13 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks to guide the Atlanta Hawks past the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-98. Capela became the third player in Hawks history with 10 blocks in a game, joining Dikembe Mutombo and Josh Smith.

The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-106 for their sixth straight win behind Kawhi Leonard's 31 points in LA. Paul George added 29 points of his own for the in-form Clippers, who are tied with defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA's best record at 12-4.

Another game, another double-double for Nikola Jokic. The Denver Nuggets star tallied his 15th double-double (31 points and 10 rebounds) in 15 games this season to help secure a 130-126 OT victory at the Phoenix Suns.

Luka Doncic fell just short of a triple-double after posting 36 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds in the Dallas Mavericks' 122-117 win against the San Antonio Spurs.

Gordan Hayward finished with 34 points but the Charlotte Hornets still lost 123-110 at home to the Chicago Bulls.

 

Collin in Young's shadow

Hawks power forward John Collins has reportedly been unhappy with Young running the team's offense, but he did little to stake his own case. Collins was just two-of-eight shooting from the field for four points in 28 minutes. The rookie has been averaging 15.9 points per game this season.

The Miami Heat boast some great three-point shooters in Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, but last season's NBA Finals participants struggled from beyond the arc in their 101-81 rout at the hands of the Toronto Raptors. Miami were just 22.6 per cent from three-point range – three of 31.

 

Brogdon calls came

Trailing 118-117, Malcolm Brogdon nailed a three-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining as the Indiana Pacers topped the Orlando Magic 120-118 in overtime.

 

Friday's results

Chicago Bulls 123-110 Charlotte Hornets
Houston Rockets 103-102 Detroit Pistons
Indiana Pacers 120-118 Orlando Magic (OT)
Cleveland Cavaliers 123-115 Brooklyn Nets
Philadelphia 76ers 122-110 Boston Celtics
Toronto Raptors 101-81 Miami Heat
Atlanta Hawks 116-98 Minnesota Timberwolves
Dallas Mavericks 122-117 San Antonio Spurs
Denver Nuggets 130-126 Phoenix Suns (OT)
Los Angeles Clippers 120-106 Oklahoma City Thunder
Sacramento Kings 103-94 New York Knicks
Washington Wizards-Milwaukee Bucks (postponed)
Memphis Grizzlies-Portland Trail Blazers (postponed)

 

Heat at Nets

The Nets (9-8) will look to snap a run of back-to-back defeats when they host Eastern Conference rivals the Heat (6-8) on Saturday.

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant will sit out Friday's NBA showdown with the Cleveland Cavaliers to rehabilitate his Achilles.

Durant, who has returned this season after sitting out the entire 2019-20 campaign due to an Achilles injury, played more than 50 minutes in Brooklyn's double-overtime loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday.

With the Cleveland clash the first of back-to-back games as the Nets are also scheduled to face the Miami Heat on Saturday, Durant has been ruled out.

Durant – who injured his Achilles during his time with the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals – posted 38 points and 12 rebounds in Brooklyn's 147-135 defeat to the Cavaliers midweek.

The two-time NBA champion and Finals MVP became the second Net ever to post three straight 30-plus point games.

Durant – the 2014 league MVP – has been averaging 31.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game for Steve Nash's Nets (9-7) this season.

Steve Nash admitted the Brooklyn Nets were "a little lost at times" during Wednesday's defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Nets' 'Big Three' of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving played together for the first time, but Brooklyn fell to the Cavs 147-135 after double overtime.

Durant (38 points and 12 rebounds), Irving (37 points) and Harden (21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds) combined for 96 points, yet Collin Sexton (42 points) inspired the Cavs.

Nets head coach Nash said it was normal to see his new-look team struggle at times.

"This is the first night that we've had everyone on the floor together. We seemed a little lost at times, which is natural because we haven't played together so there's a little indecision," he told a news conference.

"We started the game turning the ball over, I think we had seven or eight in the first quarter. We cleaned it up, got ourselves back in the game. Obviously, we have to defend better, but I stay positive.

"These guys, it's the first night out together, we're just getting a feel for each other and this is going to be a process that's going to take the entire year. While we're all disappointed, we've got lots to build on, lots to grow and lots more opportunities."

The Nets gave up 20 points in the second period of overtime to lose the game.

Nash said the defense would be a key focus for Brooklyn (9-7) as the season goes on.

"We had breakdowns all over the place. We've got a lot of work to do, we know that," he said.

"We know that we have a very offensive team right now so we have to find ways to defend, to get connected, to be on the same page and that's going to take some time.

"It's definitely early doors as far as this new team, this new group, [are] learning to defend together and how we can be effective defensively, and that's got to be the part of our game that we're going to focus on the most going forward."

The Nets face the Cavs again on Friday.

Joel Embiid produced another mammoth performance to lead the Philadelphia 76ers past Eastern Conference rivals the Boston Celtics 117-109 on Wednesday.

Embiid posted 42 points and 10 rebounds – going 12 of 19 from the floor in Philadelphia, where the three-time NBA All-Star scored 22 points in the first half.

Returning to action following knee soreness, Embiid topped 40 points for the second time in three games as he joined Bradley Beal as the only NBA players with multiple such performances.

There is only one other instance where a Sixers player had a 40 and 10 game on one or fewer turnovers since the three-point era – Embiid himself in 2019.

Luka Doncic recorded another triple-double as the Dallas Mavericks beat the Indiana Pacers 124-112 to snap a three-game losing streak.

Doncic put up 13 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his fifth triple-double of the season – tied for the most alongside Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic – and 30th of his career.

The 22-year-old is the youngest player to reach 30 career triple-doubles, while he is the second-fastest in terms of games played (146), eclipsing Magic Johnson (190) but behind Oscar Robertson (75).

 

Irving stars on return but Sexton outshines Nets trio

After a seven-game absence due to personal reasons, Kyrie Irving had 37 points in the Brooklyn Nets' 147-135 double overtime loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kevin Durant led the Nets with 38 points and 12 rebounds, and fellow superstar James Harden finished with a triple-double of 21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. However, Collin Sexton's 42 points lifted the Cavaliers past Brooklyn's 'Big Three'.

Clint Capela had 27 points and a career-high 26 rebounds for the Atlanta Hawks, who outlasted the Detroit Pistons 123-115 in overtime. Trae Young scored 38 points and John Collins registered 31 points, while Detroit's Jerami Grant posted a career-high 32 points.

 

Lowry's shooting woes

While collecting 10 rebounds and tallying seven assists, Kyle Lowry was far from his best in the Toronto Raptors' 111-102 loss to the Miami Heat. Lowry was just two-of-12 from the field, while he made just one of 10 shots from three-point range for eight points in 36 minutes.

 

Anthony on the buzzer!

Cole Anthony did it all at the death. He grabbed the rebound and ran the length of the court before sinking the buzzer-beating shot to lift the Orlando Magic past the Minnesota Timberwolves 97-96.

Wednesday's results

Cleveland Cavaliers 147-135 Brooklyn Nets (OT)
Dallas Mavericks 124-112 Indiana Pacers
Philadelphia 76ers 117-109 Boston Celtics
Atlanta Hawks 123-115 Detroit Pistons (OT)
Miami Heat 111-102 Toronto Raptors
Orlando Magic 97-96 Minnesota Timberwolves
Phoenix Suns 109-103 Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors 121-99 San Antonio Spurs
Los Angeles Clippers 115-96 Sacramento Kings
Washington Wizards-Charlotte Hornets (postponed)
Portland Trail Blazers-Memphis Grizzlies (postponed)

 

Lakers at Bucks

LeBron James and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (11-4) travel to face Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks (9-5) on Thursday. Both teams are coming off losses.

Kevin Durant said his first game alongside James Harden and Kyrie Irving for the Brooklyn Nets "felt perfect" despite a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving returned and the Nets had their 'Big Three' together for the first time following the blockbuster arrival of former MVP Harden, but fell to the Cavs 147-135 after double overtime on Wednesday.

Durant (38 points and 12 rebounds), Irving (37 points) and Harden (21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds) combined for 96 points, yet it was Collin Sexton (42 points) who inspired the Cavs.

Despite the loss, Durant – who became the second Net ever to post three straight 30-plus point games – was happy with how the game felt alongside his two superstar team-mates.

"It felt right, it felt perfect, it felt like we belong together," he told a news conference.

"It felt like this journey together is going to be fun. It was tough first start, especially it was an up and down game for us, but I like where we are."

The Nets' loss saw them slip to 9-7 and they sit fifth in the Eastern Conference.

But Durant is looking ahead, with the Nets facing the Cavs again on Friday.

"Obviously we'd love to win the basketball game, that's the most important thing and we're definitely disappointed about that, but we have a long season ahead of us, just keep plugging away," he said.

"I like where we are, I like the comradery that we have and we're building.

"The communication from the coaching staff to the players is at a high level so looking forward to keep building, keep grinding, we've got the same team next game."

Kyrie Irving is ready to play again and looks set to line up for the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday after a run of seven missed games.

The six-time All-Star has been absent for personal reasons and received a hefty punishment for breaching NBA health and safety protocols while away from the team.

That was imposed after Irving was filmed apparently attending a large birthday gathering while not wearing a mask.

But Irving confirmed on Tuesday he is back in training with the team, putting him in line to face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday evening.

Explaining his absence, Irving said on Tuesday: "There's been a lot of family and personal stuff going on, so I just want to leave it at that."

Coach Steve Nash said: "I expect him to play tomorrow. It's great to have Kyrie back in the building. We've missed him and I'm excited to get him back out on the floor."

Irving was fined $50,000 by the NBA and docked over $800,000 in salary for the two games he missed while ordered into quarantine by the league.

He will have a notable new teammate on his return to action, with the Nets having landed James Harden from the Houston Rockets.

Harden, an eight-time All-Star, bolsters the scoring power already in Brooklyn's ranks, with Irving averaging 27.1 points per game in his seven outings for the team this season and Kevin Durant posting 30.6 PPG in 11 appearances.

The new arrival meets with Irving's approval.

"I'm very excited to have James here," Irving said. "We're just moving on to the next phase of developing as a team, building some camaraderie and having fun.

"It's just really exciting to be able to play with great players."

He spoke of the experience that Harden brings and said: "Adding that to our locker room is going to be great for us."

Without Irving, the Nets have won five of their past seven games to improve to 9-6 for the season.

Kevin Durant and James Harden feel experience has proven key in a "seamless" transition to their partnership with the Brooklyn Nets.

The former Oklahoma City Thunder duo combined to impressive effect as the Nets battled to a 125-123 win at home to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.

Durant won the game courtesy of a three-pointer with 36 seconds remaining to reach 30 points, while adding nine rebounds and six assists.

Harden followed up his dream debut against the Orlando Magic with 34 points, 12 assists and six rebounds.

It is the first time two team-mates have had at least 30 points in each of their opening two games for a franchise, per ESPN.

"We have been through a lot in this league," Durant said about his link-up with Harden.

"Experienced a lot, and for us to bring it together now and combine what we've learned over this time and try to play great basketball, I think it was pretty seamless for us.

"It was an easy transition, especially with James handling the ball a lot coming in. So we're still trying to find our way, and we've still got room to improve, but it's a solid start."

Harden is yet to practice with the Nets since his blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets.

"We were young in Oklahoma City," Harden – who impressively followed up his triple-double against the Magic – said when asked about his connection with Durant.

"We are grown men now. We know what we want. We really know the game of basketball now. 

"We are not those young guys that want to run around and just shoot and dunk all day.

"And then for me, I sit back and I know what player Kevin Durant is. He's one of the best players to ever touch a basketball. This is a huge win for us."

With four straight wins moving them to 9-6, the Nets are next in action at the 6-7 Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

The Nets' other star, Kyrie Irving, is set to return to practice on Tuesday. He missed his seventh straight game against the Bucks, who got 34 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo.

"This is what they do – they wake up, come to the game and they score 30," Antetokounmpo said. 

"If you're not aggressive and you're not locked in against them, they're going to score 50."

James Harden and Kevin Durant guided the Brooklyn Nets past the Milwaukee Bucks, while the Los Angeles Lakers' winning run was ended.

The Nets extended their winning streak to four with a 125-123 victory over the Bucks on Monday.

It was their second win in as many games since Harden joined in a trade from the Houston Rockets last week.

The eight-time All-Star had a double-double of 34 points and 12 assists, while Durant finished with 30 points against the Bucks.

Durant hit a clutch three-pointer with 36.8 seconds remaining to lift the Nets to 9-6.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

After five straight wins, the Lakers went down to the Golden State Warriors 115-113.

Warriors star Stephen Curry had 26 points, while Dennis Schroder top-scored for the Lakers with 25.

LeBron James (19 points) missed a three-pointer on the buzzer for the Lakers, who had Anthony Davis post a double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds.

 

Awesome Adebayo, Oladipo makes Rockets debut

Bam Adebayo posted 28 points and 11 rebounds to guide the Miami Heat past the struggling Detroit Pistons 113-107.

Victor Oladipo arrived at the Rockets following Harden's exit, and he had 32 points and nine assists on debut, but it came in a 125-120 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

DeMar DeRozan (20 points and 11 assists) led an even team effort in the San Antonio Spurs' 125-104 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. DeRozan (20), LaMarcus Aldridge (22), Patty Mills (21) and Rudy Gay (21) became the first group of four Spurs team-mates to each score 20-plus points in a game since 2010.

A double-double from Trae Young (20 points and 13 assists) helped the Atlanta Hawks past the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-97.

 

Doncic below his best

Luka Doncic described himself as "selfish" despite a triple-double in a Dallas Mavericks loss to the Bulls on Sunday, and he was below his best a day later. He went four-of-11 from the field for just 15 points in 34 minutes in a 116-93 humbling at the hands of the Toronto Raptors.

 

Clutch KD

Durant hit the crucial three-pointer to lift the Nets to their victory.

Monday's results

New York Knicks 91-84 Orlando Magic
Atlanta Hawks 108-97 Minnesota Timberwolves
San Antonio Spurs 125-104 Portland Trail Blazers
Memphis Grizzlies 108-104 Phoenix Suns
Brooklyn Nets 125-123 Milwaukee Bucks
Toronto Raptors 116-93 Dallas Mavericks
Miami Heat 113-107 Detroit Pistons
Chicago Bulls 125-120 Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors 115-113 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Thunder at Nuggets

Nikola Jokic (averaging 25 points, 11.4 rebounds and 10.3 assists this season) and the Denver Nuggets (6-7) take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (6-6) in one of two games scheduled for Tuesday.

It was far from business as usual in the NBA again last week.

A total of 11 games were postponed due to stringent COVID-19 protocols, making it tough for some players and teams to find their rhythm early in the season.

Others have taken full advantage of opportunities presented to them by teams having to go deep into their rosters in order to fulfil fixtures.

We take a look at the players who had the biggest increases and decreases in production over the previous week.

 

RUNNING HOT…

Shake Milton

The Philadelphie 76ers have seen their roster badly affected by COVID-19 protocols and results over the past week have been a little patchy as a result – a pair of wins over the Miami Heat ended a run of three straight defeats but were followed by a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. One who man stepped up, though, was Milton, who was averaging 14.1 points per game up to January 10. Last week he averaged 29.5 – a difference of 15.4, the highest in the league. 

Duncan Robinson

Last season's beaten finalists the Heat are in somewhat of a rut having lost four of their past five to slip to 4-7 for the season. Robinson has done his best to help reverse the fortunes, though, having averaged 23.3 points last week – his improvement of 12.1 from his average at January 10 was second only to Milton. Part of the improvement can be attributed to his prowess from three-point range over with Robinson averaging five per game, compared to 3.1 for the season prior to the week. Team-mate Tyler Herro has also impressed – averaging 25.5 points per game for the week, a +9.9 difference to his average leading into it.

Bruce Brown

With the Brooklyn Nets trading away Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, Caris LeVert and Rodions Kurucs – as well as a ton of picks – to acquire James Harden, Brown received greater minutes in Steve Nash's rotation. He shot 8-of-11 from the field for 16 points in a win over the Denver Nuggets and had a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds against the New York Knicks the following day. However, when Kyrie Irving returns, Brown can expect to see a significant reduction in his time on the floor.

Luka Doncic

The Dallas Mavericks star started to find his range from three over the past week, going 5-of-9 from beyond the arc against the Charlotte Hornets and 6-of-11 versus the Chicago Bulls. He averaged four three-point makes per game last week, a significant improvement on his figure of 1.63 on the season he went in with. Doncic also had 16 rebounds and 15 assists against the Bulls to record his 29th triple-double, surpassing the legendary Michael Jordan on the all-time list. However, he ended up on the losing side against Chicago and blamed himself: "That's on me, that game. I was being selfish a little bit because I had 30 points in the first half. That wasn't me in the second half."

GOING COLD...

Fred VanVleet

Four years after going undrafted, VanVleet was rewarded for his role in the Raptors' recent success as he signed a four-year, $85million deal to stay with Toronto ahead of this season. His performances have not yet justified that outlay, however, and the past week was a particularly disappointing one. The struggling Raptors actually enjoyed a minor upturn in form, winning back-to-back games against the Hornets to improve to 4-8, but VanVleet scored just 14 points per game, 8.1 down on his prior season average of 22.1. There was at least some solace in a first double-double of the season as he stacked up 10 assists in the second Hornets game.

Kevin Huerter and De'Andre Hunter

It was not a good week for the Atlanta Hawks, their shock 3-0 start long since forgotten. Three Atlanta players were at least 6.0 points down on their prior scoring average for the year, yet it was the decline in three-point shooting that really stood out. Huerter and Hunter had each impressed from beyond the arc in the early weeks of the campaign, making 2.4 and 2.1 threes per game respectively. But a remarkable drop-off saw both make just two across three games - two of which were defeats - to each average 0.7. It meant the team as a whole made just five threes in the loss to the Utah Jazz and six as they went down to the Portland Trail Blazers.

George Hill

The Oklahoma City Thunder again traded assets for picks ahead of this season but have still managed to operate at .500 so far, beating the Bulls after defeats to the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. However, Hill's outstanding early form is showing signs of tailing off. A new arrival this year, the 34-year-old point guard was outperforming his career average of 1.2 threes made per game heading into the week (1.9) but did not make a single one of his seven attempts from beyond the arc against the Spurs, Lakers or Bulls.

Terrence Ross

After a strong start to the season with the Orlando Magic, Ross went into last week averaging 17.9 points and 2.44 three-pointers made per game. However, in meetings with the Nets, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, he shot 3-of-15 from beyond the arc – an average of just one make per game. It's therefore unsurprising he also suffered one of the biggest decreases in points per game to 11, with 23 of his 33 total points coming against Brooklyn.

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