Kevin Durant Drops 34 as Nets Hand Joel Embiid, 76ers 3rd Straight LossDecember 17, 2021
The Brooklyn Nets extended their winning streak to four games with a 114-105 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night at Barclays Center.
Brooklyn improved to 21-8 to maintain its first-place status in the Eastern Conference. The Nets have been particularly impressive of late, winning seven of their last 10 games.
Thursday's win over the Sixers was even more impressive because the Nets were without seven players, including James Harden and Bruce Brown, because of COVID-19 protocols.
Kevin Durant, PF, BKN: 34 PTS, 11 REB, 8 AST, 1 BLK
Joel Embiid, C, PHI: 32 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST, 1 STL
Nic Claxton, PF, BKN: 17 PTS, 2 REB, 2 STL, 2 BLK
Seth Curry, SG, PHI: 29 PTS, 3 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL
Blake Griffin, PF, BKN: 17 PTS, 9 REB, 2 AST
Kevin Durant Leads the Way
Durant will always be the star of the show for the Nets, but his performance Thursday was even more important because of how short-handed the team was.
The 33-year-old was effective from the get-go, putting up 10 points, six rebounds and two assists in the first quarter, which led all players.
Durant didn't slow down in the second quarter, either, adding five points, three rebounds, three assists and one block.
After halftime, the four-time scoring champion added 19 points, two rebounds and three assists to help the Nets maintain the lead and grab the win.
It was also Durant's fourth straight game with 30-plus points, and it should be mentioned that he entered Thursday's contest averaging 36.9 minutes per night, the most time on the court he's seen since the 2013-14 season.
Durant played 39 minutes against the Sixers. If he played one more minute, it would have been his third straight game of at least 40 minutes.
Durant's play also helped several other players shine, including Nic Claxton and rookie Cam Thomas. Claxton finished with 17 points, two rebounds, two steals and two blocks, while Thomas finished with 11 points, four rebounds and four assists off the bench.
It's unclear when the Nets will get the remainder of their roster back, but with Durant playing some of his best basketball, he should be able to keep the team afloat until they return.
Joel Embiid's Effort Not Enough
Embiid did a little bit of everything against the Nets on Thursday, and he did so without the help of Tyrese Maxey, who was ruled out with a left quad contusion.
The 27-year-old kicked things off with just four points, three rebounds and three assists in the first quarter before picking it up in the second frame and closing the half with 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal.
Embiid continued to have his way in the second half, tacking on 18 points, four rebounds and two assists. However, his performance wasn't enough as the Sixers failed to get much out of anyone else besides Seth Curry, who finished with 29 points, three rebounds, four assists and one steal.
Tobias Harris, Danny Green and Shake Milton, who all started for Philadelphia, combined for just 32 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. In addition, the team's performance off the bench was disappointing, as Andre Drummond, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe failed to make an impact, combining for just 12 points.
In comparison, Brooklyn's starters aside from Durant combined for 54 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists, while the team's bench combined for 26 points, 17 rebounds and six assists.
The Sixers' poor play and inconsistency continue to haunt them this year. Embiid can't carry the burden night in and night out, and the team needs to do something to get him some help—whether it be trading Ben Simmons, who has yet to play this year, or acquiring an impact player or two at the trade deadline.
The Nets will host the Orlando Magic on Saturday, while the Sixers will return home to host the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.