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Durant stars as ‘relentless’ Nets reel in Sixers

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Los Angeles (AFP)

The Nets appeared to be poised for a second straight loss following their opening defeat to Milwaukee after the Sixers pulled into a 108-98 lead with just five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

But the Sixers hopes of extending their unbeaten start to the season evaporated as their shooting accuracy deserted them in the closing stages.

The Sixers made 10 misses as the Nets turned a 10-point deficit into a 114-109 win with a 16-1 scoring run.

Durant finished with 15 rebounds and 12 assists along with his 29-point haul, while LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 23 points and James Harden 20.

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Joe Harris added 14 off the bench while Patty Mills chipped in with 11.

The Sixers led for the entire game until their late fourth-quarter collapse, going 14 points clear in the first quarter alone.

But they were unable to respond when Brooklyn turned up the pace in the fourth quarter with a more physical approach.

“We played with more pace there in the fourth,” Durant said afterwards. “We were more aggressive defensively, more physical.

“We’re fine-tuning ourselves on both ends of the floor so this is a good game to see where we are. We were down early, but tried to fight out here and we got over that hump.”

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Nets coach Steve Nash said his team, still adjusting to the absence of Kyrie Irving who is unavailable due to his refusal to take a Covid-19 vaccine, had been “relentless” over the closing stage.

“I don’t think there’s anything that we’re going to bottle up and put in a museum from this one, but it was a team effort,” Nash said.

“Fighting, scrapping, trying to compete. We were relentless, never broke and kept coming at them.”

Seth Curry and Tobias Harris led the Philadelphia scoring with 23 points each while Joel Embiid finished with 19.

The Sixers’ preparations had been overshadowed by another twist in the saga surrounding Australian star Ben Simmons, who had informed the club earlier Friday he was not mentally ready to rejoin the team.

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Simmons, who was suspended for Wednesday’s season opener, has told the Sixers he wants to leave the club.

Elsewhere on Friday, the New York Knicks made it two wins from two, defeating the Orlando Magic 121-96 in Florida.

Julius Randle, the hero of the Knicks’ double-overtime defeat of the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, finished with 21 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists.

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