The NBA-leading Utah Jazz flexed their muscles with a 112-94 win over the Miami Heat on Saturday.

Utah (22-5) extended their winning streak to seven games after Donovan Mitchell fuelled the Jazz at home to last season's NBA Finals participants the Heat.

Jazz star Mitchell posted 26 points and Rudy Gobert added 16 points and 12 rebounds for Utah, who have won 18 of their last 19 games.

Kendrick Nunn had a team-high 23 points as the Heat had their four-game winning streak snapped.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant returned from coronavirus protocol to lead the way for the Brooklyn Nets in his reunion with the Golden State Warriors.

Durant, who won two championships over three years with the Warriors before joining the Nets in 2019, scored 20 points in Brooklyn's 134-117 victory.

"My time here at Golden State was so much fun," Durant, who watched a tribute video during the opening quarter, said after his return to Bay Area for the first time since leaving.

"It was such a big learning experience, especially learning the game of basketball, a different philosophy. I'm going to take that with me for the rest of my life."

Kyrie Irving posted 23 points and fellow Nets star James Harden finished with 19 points and 16 assists.

Stephen Curry had a game-high 27 points for the Warriors.

 

Booker stars as Suns sizzle

Devin Booker put up 36 points to inspire the Phoenix Suns to a 120-111 win over Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers. Joel Embiid's 35 points were not enough for the 76ers in Phoenix.

 

Tucker scoreless again

It was another scoreless display from P.J. Tucker in the Houston Rockets' 121-99 rout at the hands of the New York Knicks. In 31 minutes, Tucker missed all four of his field goals, going 0-of-four from three-point range.

 

Jazz dazzle

There is just no stopping the Jazz at the moment. Playing with confidence, Utah put on a show as they highlighted their elite ball movement against the helpless Heat.

 

Saturday's results

Phoenix Suns 120-111 Philadelphia 76ers
New York Knicks 121-99 Houston Rockets
Brooklyn Nets 134-117 Golden State Warriors
Utah Jazz 112-94 Miami Heat
Indiana Pacers 125-113 Atlanta Hawks

 

Lakers at Nuggets

The in-form Los Angeles Lakers (21-6) travel to the Denver Nuggets (14-11) on Sunday. Defending champions the Lakers are riding a seven-game winning streak, while the Nuggets have won back-to-back games.

James Harden has apologised for the "drama" surrounding his exit from the Houston Rockets and wishes his trade to the Brookyln Nets could have been a smoother process.

Former NBA MVP Harden was moved to the Nets one month ago after playing more than eight seasons with Houston.

He joined Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in a star-studded roster, having played eight games early in the season with the Rockets.

Harden's desire to seek a trade had been public knowledge since the offseason but a drawn-out process followed until the 31-year-old was traded after a 17-point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

After that game Harden called the situation "crazy" and "something that I don't think can be fixed".

Harden was happy the Rockets ultimately granted his wish to move to Brooklyn, but regrets the acrimonious nature of his departure.

"Apologise for how it went down, but I guess I had to do what I had to do in order to get to where I wanted to go," Harden said to ESPN.

"And credit to Houston, they didn't necessarily have to trade me to Brooklyn. They could have traded me anywhere, but those are some stand-up guys over there. 

"And it ended up the right way, but just didn't like how that month or two played out."

Harden insists the circumstances of the weeks leading up to his Rockets exit did not provide a fair reflection of his character.

He added: "I don't like it at all because that's not who I am. The drama, the extra whatever you want to call it, the negativity for me. 

"I don't really like negative energy. That's draining. So I don't like how it necessarily happened.

"The front office knew where I stood and what I wanted. I feel like it could have happened a lot smoother, a lot easier, but it is what it is."

The Nets are 15-12, third in the Eastern Conference, ahead of Saturday's big game at the Golden State Warriors (14-12).

Harden leads the league with 11.0 assists per game in 2020-21, though his scoring average sits at 23.9 points, lower than what he recorded in any of his full seasons with the Rockets.

Kevin Durant will make a long-awaited return to the Bay Area on Saturday as the Brooklyn Nets visit the Golden State Warriors in a mouth-watering NBA clash at Chase Center.

It is a game that pits the league's newest 'big three' (Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden) against a Warriors team led by Stephen Curry, whose incredible performances this season merit MVP votes.

But more significantly it is Durant's first road game against the Warriors since leaving them to join the Nets after the 2018-19 season that ended with Golden State losing the NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors in a series that saw the 2014 MVP suffer an Achilles injury.

Having missed the last three games because of coronavirus contact tracing protocols, Durant has been cleared and will face the team with whom he won two NBA titles and two Finals MVPs, though Curry does not expect his former team-mate to treat the contest any differently.

Reflecting on Durant's time with the Warriors, Curry told a media conference: "Two championships, an unfortunate ending with injuries and not getting it done in the 2019 Finals, but it was some of the best basketball the world has ever seen.

"The ability to put that much talent and experience together and make it work, there was no guarantee it was going to work, and we figured it out and it was an amazing run."

Asked about the emotions of his return, Curry added: "Honestly, I don't know how special it'll be because it's not at Oracle [Arena] and there's no fans, so it's kind of weird that whole vibe.

"We've got a tribute video which he deserves, and hopefully it'll be a moment that he'll appreciate. But outside of that it is kind of weird to be honest, in terms of all the things that have changed since 18-19.

"If you ask him how he feels he'll probably say it's another game and I'm sure that's how it will be once the ball drops on Saturday."

TOP PERFORMERS

Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors

Curry has bounced back from a 2019-20 season lost to injury in utterly remarkable form.

He is averaging 30 points a game, the only other season in which he has done so was in 2015-16, when he was named the league MVP in a unanimous vote.

Curry is shooting 43.5 per cent from beyond the arc, having made 10 threes in Thursday's win over the Orlando Magic, which he finished with 40 points.

That his tally against the Magic was not close to his season-high is indicative of the level at which he is playing.

The six-time All-Star has a 62-point game and a 57-point game this season, and has topped 30 points on 10 other occasions. Curry is back, and he's back to his best.

James Harden - Brooklyn Nets

Harden may not be scoring at the same level as Curry but his impact this season is undoubted.

The former Houston Rockets star is sixth in the NBA in PAR (Points + Assists + Rebounds) per game with 41.8, so far justifying the Nets' blockbuster trade for his services.

He started the month with his fourth triple-double of the season against the Los Angeles Clippers and has four successive double-doubles since.

Whether it's as a scorer, facilitator or rebounder, the Warriors will have to do all they can to limit Harden's influence.

KEY BATTLE: CAN DRAYMOND STOP DURANT?

With the Warriors still without rookie center James Wiseman because of a wrist injury and DeAndre Jordan out for the Nets, Durant may have to matchup with Draymond Green at center.

In the absence of Wiseman, the Warriors have had to turn to small ball and play Green at the five, and his clash with Durant promises to be a feisty one, given they weren't afraid to get in each other's faces as team-mates.

One of Green's tasks will be to stop Durant from getting into the paint consistently. That is no easy feat, but the Warriors have had success stopping teams in that regard this season.

Their 43.5 points in the paint allowed per game are the sixth-fewest in the NBA. If Green and the Warriors can limit Durant's opportunities to get to the hoop, they will have a much better shot of pulling off the upset.

HEAD TO HEAD

Durant and Irving inspired the Nets to a blowout win over the Warriors to start the new season.

The Nets emerged 125-99 victors, Durant scoring 22 points and leading Brooklyn with a plus-minus rating of plus 26.

That game was illustrative of the massive changes both teams have undergone. It was Brooklyn's second successive win over the Warriors but they had lost their previous eight meetings with one of most dominant teams in NBA history.

Zach LaVine and Coby White proved unstoppable from downtown as the Chicago Bulls delivered a record-breaking display, while Luka Doncic's superb triple-double powered the Dallas Mavericks.

The Bulls exploded to post an all-time franchise best total of 25 three-pointers as Chicago halted the New Orleans Pelicans' four-match winning streak, 129-116, at the United Center.

LaVine delivered 20 points in the first quarter before going on to drop 46 in total, draining nine of his 14 three-point shots, while White added 30 points including eight of 17 buckets from distance.

The duo became the first team-mates in NBA history to each hit eight three-pointers in the same game as the Bulls came back from eight points down at the half to blow away the Pelicans.

The scorching-hot LaVine also became the first Chicago player to post 120 points in a three-game stretch since Michael Jordan in 1997 as the Bulls improved to 10-14.

Doncic posted his 32nd career triple-double as the Mavericks edged a nail-biting 118-117 triumph over the Atlanta Hawks to extend their winning streak to three.

The Slovenian star dropped 28 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as Dallas trailed by nine at the start of the fourth quarter but finished strongly to close out the win and take their record to 12-14.

Atlanta's John Collins was the game's top scorer with 33 points, while Trae Young notched 25 points and 15 assists, but the Hawks could not find the decisive play in a wild final 90 seconds.


Giannis produces fireworks but Suns claim comeback win

The Phoenix Suns kept their momentum rolling, claiming a fourth straight win by edging Milwaukee 125-124 after coming back from 16 points down, but Giannis Antetokounmpo exploded for the Bucks.

The two-time NBA MVP carried his team on his shoulders, scoring a season-high 47 points and claiming 11 rebounds and five assists. Antetokounmpo almost snatched a remarkable victory but his buzzer-beater bounced back off the rim.

Indiana off the pace against Brooklyn

Malcolm Brogdon had a day to forget as the Indiana Pacers were held under 100 points, falling to their fourth straight defeat, in a 104-94 reverse against the Brooklyn Nets.

The Indiana guard had a 29.4 per cent field-goal success rate, scoring five of his 17 attempts, as the 12-13 Pacers could not match Kyrie Irving and James Harden's high-power offense.

LeBron sets up Matthews for key bucket 

With less than a minute remaining in overtime and the Los Angeles Lakers level against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Wesley Matthews came up clutch.

LeBron James drove towards the paint in heavy traffic, before flipping the ball out right for Matthews to sink the key three-pointer.

The Lakers clinched a 114-113 overtime victory to improve to 20-6.

Wednesday's results

Toronto Raptors 137-115 Washington Wizards
Dallas Mavericks 118-117 Atlanta Hawks
Los Angeles Clippers 119-112 Minnesota Timberwolves
Memphis Grizzlies 130-114 Charlotte Hornets
Brooklyn Nets 104-94 Indiana Pacers
Chicago Bulls 129-116 New Orleans Pelicans
Denver Nuggets 133-95 Cleveland Cavaliers
Los Angeles Lakers 114-113 Oklahoma City Thunder 
Phoenix Suns 125-124 Milwaukee Bucks

 

76ers at Trail Blazers

Led by the in-form Joel Embiid, the 18-7 Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers go on the road to face another team with a winning record, the 13-10 Portland Trail Blazers, on Thursday.

Kyrie Irving accepts the Brooklyn Nets "look very average" but insisted the rest of the NBA will be on notice when the team finally starts to click. 

The Nets have assembled a star-studded cast with James Harden arriving last month to form an exciting 'Big 3' alongside Irving and Kevin Durant. 

But since Harden's heralded arrival, the Nets have gone 7-6. Tuesday's disappointing 122-111 loss to the Detroit Pistons was their third in a row and they have a 14-12 record for the season, comfortably behind Eastern Conference rivals the Philadelphia 76ers (18-7) and the Milwaukee Bucks (16-8). 

Defense has been a particular concern for the inconsistent Nets, a fact highlighted by the Pistons shooting 56 per cent from the field and 44.8 per cent from the beyond the arc. 

Irving knows the Nets, who were without Durant against the Pistons, are not living up to expectations but remains confident they will get it right as the season progresses.

"I don't think that we go out every single day and sacrifice the time to be average at anything," Irving told reporters.  

"We look very average, we have the talent that the eye test presents that we should be dominating. We have the experience in terms of some of our guys have been some through certain things, circumstances to be able to battle through. 

"We're the team that is literally battling against so many odds that at this point it's not even a reason to continue to comment on. They are what they are.  

"As a warrior that I am and the energy I have alongside my team-mates, we just have to turn that corner. We haven't done it yet but we will and I'm telling you the league is going to be on notice when that happens. We just have to take it by day by day."

The Nets have lost four of their past five outings, with three of those setbacks coming against teams who have losing records. 

Irving acknowledges the Nets need to address the perception the team is not playing hard enough. 

"I don't accept that, and I don't think our team accepts it as a whole, obviously we don't want that to be what teams think of us," he added.  

"We're seeing it day in, day out where guys and teams are coming out and punching us in the mouth early and we're playing catch up. 

"It happens to be against the guys with the least good records. We gotta call it for what it is, we gotta fix that. It takes maturity, accountability and a realisation of what we need to do moving forward." 

Irving missed the previous loss to the Philadelphia 76ers due to an injury to his right index finger – an issue that is still troubling him. 

"It sucks man," he said. "It's uncomfortable but at the same time I don't want to make excuses. 

"I'm out there, I do a lot of treatment on it, we're down a few players obviously as well. You just want to go out there and compete and worry about the pain later. I'm doing the best I can."

Stephen Curry joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only Golden State Warriors players to post multiple 55-point games in a season, but his team lost to Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks 134-32 in the NBA.

Curry nailed a season-high 11 three-pointers en route to 57 points in a thrilling duel with Mavericks star Doncic on Saturday.  

Former MVP Curry put up his eighth 50-plus point game in his career, however, it was not enough.

Doncic tied his career high with 42 points in Dallas, where he also had 11 assists to snap the Mavericks' six-game home losing streak.

Meanwhile, Nikola Jokic joined Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson as the only Denver Nuggets players with 50-plus point games in the past 20 seasons.

Jokic finished with a career-high 50 points – including 23 points in the final quarter – but the Nuggets still went down 119-114 to the Sacramento Kings.

The MVP candidate also had 12 assists and eight rebounds as the Nuggets dropped their third straight game.

 

Embiid leads 76ers

Joel Embiid became the first Philadelphia 76ers player with eight consecutive 25-plus point games since Iverson in 2006. The three-time All-Star registered 33 points in a 124-108 win over the Brooklyn Nets, who were without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. James Harden led the Nets with 26 points and 10 assists.

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Milwaukee Bucks, who eased past the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-99.

The Oklahoma City Thunder scored a team-record 83 points in the first half as they edged the Minnesota Timberwolves 120-118. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander posted 31 points to the Thunder.

The Chicago Bulls defeated the Orlando Magic 118-92 behind Zach LaVine's 39 points on the road.

LeBron James had 33 points and 11 assists and Anthony Davis added 30 points as NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers prevailed 135-129 against the Detroit Pistons in double overtime.

 

Oladipo struggles

Victor Oladipo ended the Houston Rockets' 111-106 loss to the San Antonio Spurs with nine points on four-of-14 shooting from the field. He also missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc.

In 34 minutes of action, Rodney Hood was three-of-10 from the field and made just one of six three-point shots for seven points as the Portland Trail Blazers were beaten 110-99 by the New York Knicks.

 

Zion with the slam!

Zion Williamson had the final say against the Memphis Grizzlies. His game-sealing dunk saw the New Orleans Pelicans to a 118-109 win. Williamson had 29 points, while team-mate Brandon Ingram scored 27 points, collected 12 rebounds and tallied a career-high four blocks.

 

Saturday's results

New York Knicks 110-99 Portland Trail Blazers
Sacramento Kings 119-114 Denver Nuggets
Chicago Bulls 118-92 Orlando Magic
Philadelphia 76ers 124-108 Brooklyn Nets
Atlanta Hawks 132-121 Toronto Raptors
Milwaukee Bucks 124-99 Cleveland Cavaliers
San Antonio Spurs 111-106 Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City Thunder 120-118 Minnesota Timberwolves
Dallas Mavericks 134-132 Golden State Warriors
New Orleans Pelicans 118-109 Memphis Grizzlies
Los Angeles Lakers 135-129 Detroit Pistons (double OT)

 

Kings at Clippers

Before Super Bowl LV gets underway, the Los Angeles Clippers (17-7)-Kings (11-11) matchup headlines a slate of five early NBA games on Sunday.

Kevin Durant will miss the Brooklyn Nets' clash with Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Durant was in doubt for Saturday's showdown in Philadelphia following an unusual series of events on Friday.

The Nets star was named in the starting line-up to face the Toronto Raptors before being removed because of the league's health and safety protocols.

Durant was allowed to enter the game in the opening quarter, only to then exit in the third period – again due to coronavirus protocols – as the Nets lost 123-117.

Former MVP Durant finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes against the Raptors.

Prior to Saturday's matchup against the 76ers (16-7), Nets head coach Steve Nash said Durant is eligible to re-join the team on Friday.

Durant has been averaging 29.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game for the Nets (14-10) this season.

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated again as the Milwaukee Bucks won a third straight game, while the Boston Celtics edged the Los Angeles Clippers.

Two days after posting a triple-double against the Indiana Pacers, Antetokounmpo had a double-double in a 123-105 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA on Friday.

Antetokounmpo finished with 33 points, 12 rebounds and four assists for the Bucks (14-8).

Jrue Holiday went eight-of-nine from the field for his 17 points, while Collin Sexton (19 points) top-scored for the Cavs.

Jayson Tatum inspired the Celtics to a 119-115 victory over the Clippers.

He finished with 34 points and Kemba Walker chipped in with 24 for Boston, while Clippers star Kawhi Leonard had 28.

Zion reaches 1,000, Nets fall amid Durant drama

Zion Williamson had 18 points in the New Orleans Pelicans' 114-113 victory over the Pacers. He reached 1,000 career points in his 44th career game, becoming the fifth player in the past 40 years to do so in 44 games or fewer – joining Blake Griffin, Shaquille O'Neal, David Robinson and Michael Jordan.

Brandon Ingram (30 points, seven assists and six rebounds) led the way for the Pelicans.

Kevin Durant endured a rollercoaster day with the Brooklyn Nets. The star was removed from the starting lineup due to the NBA's health and safety protocols. After being allowed to enter the game in the first quarter, he exited in the third due to contact tracing. Pascal Siakam (33 points and 11 rebounds) guided the Toronto Raptors past the Nets 123-117.

The Utah Jazz hit a franchise-record 26 three-pointers in a 138-121 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Bojan Bogdanovic (31 points) made seven of them, while LaMelo Ball had 34 points for the Hornets.

Nikola Vucevic posted a huge double-double of 43 points and 19 rebounds to guide the Orlando Magic past the Chicago Bulls 123-119. He joined Dwight Howard and O'Neal as the only players to reach 43 points and 19 rebounds in a game for Orlando.

 

Beal's streak comes to an end

After 25-plus points in 17 straight games to begin the season, Bradley Beal's streak came to an end in the Washington Wizards' 122-95 loss to the Miami Heat. Beal was one-of-14 from the field for just seven points in 27 minutes.

 

Jazz red hot

Utah were on a roll from deep against the Hornets. They went 26-of-50 from three-point range in their record performance.

Friday's results

New Orleans Pelicans 114-113 Indiana Pacers
Orlando Magic 123-119 Chicago Bulls
Toronto Raptors 123-117 Brooklyn Nets
Milwaukee Bucks 123-105 Cleveland Cavaliers
Utah Jazz 138-121 Charlotte Hornets
Miami Heat 122-95 Washington Wizards
Minnesota Timberwolves 106-103 Oklahoma City Thunder
Phoenix Suns 109-92 Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics 119-115 Los Angeles Clippers

 

Nets at 76ers

The Nets (14-10) are set to be without Durant for a clash against Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers (16-7) on Saturday.

Steve Nash believes Kevin Durant will miss Saturday's clash against the Philadelphia 76ers, but the Brooklyn Nets head coach is unsure how long the star will be out.

In an unusual series of events, Durant was named in the Nets' starting lineup to face the Toronto Raptors on Friday before being removed due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

But Durant was allowed to enter the game in the first quarter, only to then exit in the third – again due to coronavirus protocols – as the Nets fell 123-117.

Nash said he was unsure how long Durant, who missed three games in January due to the health and safety protocols, would be sidelined.

"I don't believe he'll come to Philly, but I don't think that necessarily they've decided," he told a news conference.

"It's just a contact-tracing procedure and it's to be determined how much time he'll have to miss, but we're just gathering information still at this point."

Durant finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes against the Raptors.

Nash admitted he got distracted by Durant's situation as the Nets slipped to 14-10.

"If I'm honest, I probably didn't handle it great, just trying to juggle all those balls, all that different information, what does it mean," he said.

"I probably got a little distracted about thinking what it means long-term for our team. We've already been playing guys a lot of minutes and if Kevin's not playing are we going to run the remaining guys too many minutes.

"Maybe I got a little bit distracted by the big picture but that's the way this year's going to be. We're going to be in and out of COVID situations and minute pile-ups and all the difficulties that we're going to face this year and it's going to be similar for everyone.

"We just have to try to adapt and be able to bounce back from little setbacks like this and unfortunately we couldn't bounce back to win the game, but we've got to be able to bounce back this next week and play well and keep getting better."

Kevin Durant left the Brooklyn Nets' clash against the Toronto Raptors in the third quarter due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Durant exited Friday's game after a strange sequence of events, which saw him come off the bench for the first time in his career.

The 2014 NBA MVP was initially named to start but was later removed from the lineup.

Durant was then cleared to enter the game late in the first quarter, with ESPN reporting he had gone through contact tracing.

But his outing ended in the third quarter, again due to COVID-19 protocols.

"Free me," Durant tweeted.

Durant had eight points, six rebounds and five assists in his 19 minutes on the court.

"It's tough to lose Kevin Durant twice in one night," Nets head coach Steve Nash told ESPN.

"It wasn't easy but we've got to be adaptable, this is the type of season it's going to be, we have a lot going on in our world. We've got a lot of guys who can step up."

Kevin Durant came off the bench for the first time in his NBA career after missing the start of the Brooklyn Nets' clash against the Toronto Raptors due to health and safety protocols.

Durant was initially named to start on Friday, but was later removed from the lineup due to the protocols.

ESPN reported the 2014 NBA MVP was going through contact tracing, and Durant ended up entering the game late in the first quarter.

After 866 NBA starts, it marked the first time he had come off the bench.

The Nets trailed 34-23 after the first quarter against the Raptors.

The first fan returns of the NBA’s All-Star voting for 2021 were revealed on Thursday, and the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant and the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James lead their respective conferences. 

Durant leads all vote getters with 2,302,705 votes, while James has garnered 2,288,676. 

Among guards, the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry leads the Western Conference with 2,113,178 votes, while 1,273,817 fans have selected the Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal in the East. 

The Nets’ Kyrie Irving is second among East guards in voting, while the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid are second and third among East frontcourt players. 

In the West, the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard are second and third in voting behind James among frontcourt players, while the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic is second among guards. 

The starting five for the All-Star teams will be made up of two guards and three frontcourt players. 

Fan voting makes up 50 per cent of the formula that determines the All-Star starters, with 25 per cent coming from a media panel and 25 per cent based on votes from players. 

In addition to the starting five, the All-Star team reserves will consist of a pair of backcourt players, three frontcourt players plus two additional wild cards. 

Voting runs through February 16, and the starters will be announced two days later. The reserves, who are selected by the league’s head coaches, are revealed on February 23. 

It’s still uncertain at this point if there will be an All-Star Game or if the voting is merely a way to recognise those individuals playing at an All-Star level.

Kyrie Irving used a lacklustre defensive display against the Washington Wizards as motivation to lead the Brooklyn Nets to success against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.

The Nets fell to a 149-146 defeat to the Wizards on Sunday, with Irving claiming he "couldn't guard a stick" after Russell Westbrook poured in a game-high 41 points.

The former Boston Celtics point guard responded with a strong display on both ends of the floor against the Clippers, scoring 39 points in a 124-120 success at Barclays Center.

"We just needed to respond, every single night is going to be different. I'm just trying to give what is needed on both ends of the floor," said Irving, who had two blocks and one steal.

"Like I said the other night, I took that personally, just not being able to guard anyone. Tonight I gave up a few drives but I feel like defensively as a team, including with my effort, we just matched it.

"We knew they were gonna bring it, so it was just an exciting game. Great competition for some of the top players in the world to go against each other on TV, so grateful to give the fans what they want."

Irving led a 13-0 run that included buckets from Kevin Durant and James Harden – who became the eighth player in NBA history to reach 50 career triple-doubles – as the Nets established a 10-point lead with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Clippers managed to bring the difference back to one but were unable to stop Brooklyn improving to 14-9 on the season.

"Late in games any coach in America wants the ball in their best players' hands," said Durant, who reached 500 points for the Nets in just his 17th game – a franchise record and the second-best mark all-time for a player on a new NBA team, after Wilt Chamberlain for the Warriors in 1959-60 (14 games).

"We've got three guys who are unselfish and know how to play, and I think we made the right plays down the stretch, especially Kyrie and James, controlling the ball.

"I felt like when those guys [have] got it on top, they've got the defense at their mercy so we've got to continue to be on the same page late in games."

On the Nets' late-game defense, he added: "You're down 10, you're shooting the ball with no conscience, they went in. Sometimes we got hands up on stuff, we gave up an and-one, but it wasn't anything easy I'll tell you that.

"I think they earned every point late in the game and that's what we want at the end of the day."

Head coach Steven Nash was proud of Brooklyn's defensive improvement against the team that entered the game with the best record in the league.

"We have the luxury of offensive talent, but we also have to defend. That is a difficult team to defend and we did a great job," said Nash.

"You know it is kind of tricky when the teams are constantly taking way more shots than you are.

"We'll keep cleaning up and we'll keep getting better. When they put up the effort that they did tonight, we'll be tough to beat."

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