Durant, Nets top Knicks while short-handed

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NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 26 points as the solo superstar before soon centering a Big Three, leading the Brooklyn Nets, short-handed after agreeing to a trade for James Harden, to a 116-109 victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.

Durant was already scheduled to play on both nights of a back-to-back for the first time since surgery to repair his Achilles tendon. He maybe had to do a little more than planned after the Nets shook up their roster earlier in the day with a four-team blockbuster highlighted by the acquisition of Harden, the three-time NBA scoring champion.

With point guard Kyrie Irving missing a fifth straight game for personal reasons, the Nets had only nine players. The four who are to be included in the trade, confirmed by a person with knowledge of the situation, were not at Madison Square Garden.

The Nets lost some good ones — Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince have all been starters and played important roles — but still were plenty good enough and might be even better if the Durant-Harden-Irving tandem works out.

Joe Harris and Bruce Brown each added 15 points for the Nets, who broke open the game with a 15-2 burst to close the first half.

Julius Randle scored 30 points and RJ Barrett had 20 for the Knicks, who dropped their fourth straight but at least rediscovered some offense after being held below 90 points in the previous three.

Brooklyn’s lead was just 46-43 with about 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the half before Durant threw a lob that DeAndre Jordan slammed down while getting fouled. Durant followed with a 3-pointer and the two had consecutive dunks for the last two baskets of the half as the Nets opened a 61-45 lead.

The lead was still 16 after three before the Knicks made it appear close in the final minutes, mostly while Durant was on the bench.

Durant went over 20 points in his franchise-record ninth straight game to begin a season, his first game at Madison Square Garden since he and Irving joined the Nets in July 2019 while a Knicks team that had enough money to afford two superstars couldn’t land any. Irving still hasn’t played across town as a Net, missing one game last season while injured and sitting out the second on the day Kobe Bryant died.

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