Patty Mills Credit: Bill Moore photo

With games versus the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons on the road from Dec. 7-12, taking three out of four, the only loss (114-104) coming against the Rockets, the Nets returned to the Barclays Center this week for a five-game homestand.

It began Tuesday night with a 131-129 overtime win over the Toronto Raptors, improving their record to 20-8, the best in the Eastern Conference. The victory was the Nets’ third in a row and sixth in their previous eight games. It was an impressive example of the Nets overcoming adversity as they had seven players, including star guard James Harden, in health and safety protocols due to COVID-19. In addition to Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre’ Bembry, James Johnson, Jevon Carter, Bruce Brown and Paul Millsap were also unavailable.

But they had Kevin Durant, the league’s leading MVP candidate, who is dealing with right ankle soreness, to carry them as he has all season. Durant had 34 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists versus the Raptors, this coming off a 51-point performance against the Pistons in a 116-204 win on Sunday. Durant’s teammates stepped up to give him solid support in holding off the Raptors.

Guard Patty Mills had 30 points and rookie forward Kessler Edwards, a second round pick (No. 44 overall) out of Pepperdine by the Nets in last summer’s draft, contributed an important 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Undrafted rookie rookie guard David Duke Jr., a product of Providence College, had 10 points and 13 rebounds in a starting role.  

“It was a team effort in everything we did tonight,” said Durant, who played 48 minutes. Put into a starting role due to the absences of the usual first unit players, center Nic Claxton added 16 points and forward Blake Griffin 13. Kessler, who is on a two way contract, splitting his time between the Nets and the G-League, said head coach Steve Nash encouraged him to “trust yourself and have fun with it.”

After taking on the Philadelphia 76ers tonight in Brooklyn, the Nets will host the Orlando Magic on Saturday, the Denver Nuggets on Sunday and the Washington Wizards next Tuesday before a Christmas Day matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers on the road.

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