By BRIAN MAHONEY – AP basketball writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Already without Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons, the Brooklyn Nets had lost another starter to illness and one to injury.
They still had Kevin Durant and that was enough against Utah.
“He made us pay for it,” said jazz forward Rudy Gay.
Durant had 37 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and the Nets defeated the Jazz 114-106 Monday night for their sixth win in seven games.
Bruce Brown added 22 points for the Nets, who remained alone in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Nic Claxton, starting for ailing center Andre Drummond, made all five shots and scored 11 in the Nets’ 38-point third quarter that opened the game.
Durant scored 15 goals during that period and said Brooklyn’s strong play of late was a team effort.
“I just think we flock to each other,” he said. “We do big plays, we just do it more than anything combined. It’s just a collective effort.”
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Most of the time it’s Durant. Gay was asked how a two-point game got away from Utah so quickly in the third.
“KD had about 20 points. That’s probably the beginning,” Gay said.
He said Durant punished Utah for strategic mistakes, which included centers Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside attempting to contain the superstar forward at times.
“We heard they were starting to switch, so really it was like we just get the ball for him and get out of his way,” Brown said. “We know that Gobert and Hassan cannot stay with him at all.”
Claxton finished with 15 points.
Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points for the Jazz, who had ended their three-game winning streak. Jordan Clarkson added 19 and Mike Conley had 18 points and seven assists after sitting out a win to rest his right knee in New York on Sunday.
The Nets’ two-point lead at half-time had shrunk to one before play even started in the second half after they were penalized for a technical foul over a second delay of the game violation. But then Claxton made the first two baskets in the third to get their big fourth going.
A 10-0 run midway through the period extended a three-point lead to 75-62 on a Durant basket, and he took consecutive three-point leads to 84-68 with 2-52 left in the third .
The game seemed completely under the Nets’ control as Durant’s 3-pointer took it to 108-87 midway through the fourth, but Utah assembled a 19-4 surge that took it to 112-106 with 57 seconds left shortened. Durant then stopped Utah’s momentum by throwing a lob pass that Claxton slammed with 37 seconds left.
Drummond was out due to an illness unrelated to COVID-19. Netkeeper Seth Curry, who came by with him and Simmons in a trade for James Harden, then missed the second half with a sprained left ankle.
Jazz: Royce O’Neale missed all four shots from the field and had two points. … Trent Forrest returned after missing five games with a sprained right wrist and was 1 of 6 for four points. … The Jazz are 1-1 on a six-game road trip.
Nets: Goran Dragic started despite pain in his left knee, which coach Steve Nash said was a fall during Brooklyn’s win over Portland on Friday. … The Nets capitalized on their 40th different starting lineup of the season. … With LaMarcus Aldridge out with a right hip injury, Nash said it’s possible rookie Day’Ron Sharpe could be recalled from the NBA G League for Brooklyn’s upcoming two road games if Drummond’s illness lasts beyond Tuesday.
Nash said Simmons’ injury was a herniated disc, a problem he had earlier in his career that had flared up again. Nash said he still believes Simmons will play this season even with just 10 regular-season games left.
Durant passed Hall of Famer Jerry West (25,192 points) to move up to 22nd on the NBA’s career scorers list. Next up for Durant, who has 25,213, is Reggie Miller with 25,279.
The Nets announced that Joe Harris had ankle ligament reconstruction surgery Monday in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He should be ready for the start of the training camp.
Jazz: Visit Boston on Wednesday.
Nets: Visit Memphis on Wednesday.
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