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Kevin Durant scores 31 points in 27 minutes as Brooklyn blow out Minnesota, 127-97

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Brooklyn Nets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The short-handed Nets took care of business in a long-handed way. Writ large.

Without James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kyrie Irving, the Nets blew out the Timberwolves, 127-97, in a tense Minneapolis. The game, originally scheduled for Monday night, was postponed and played mid-afternoon without fans while protestors and police faced off in a nearby suburb following the killing of a young black man by police ... and jurors heard testimony in the trial of another police officer accused of killing George Floyd.

With the win, Brooklyn improves to 37-17 on the season, tying the Sixers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

“The number one thing was we talked about having a better start. The guys came out of the blocks focused, alert and trying to be physical from the start. I thought that was it,” Steve Nash said on his main takeaway. “We started with the right mentality and we ran from there. The ball moved, which was good, but we were better defensively early with our assignments and our attentiveness.”

Now, with that out of the way, the question is how many of the Nets walking wounded, including Kevin Durant, will play Wednesday’s crucial contest vs. the 76ers. KD would not rule it out.

“I felt good out there. I felt like my wind and legs are getting under me,” Durant said post-game. “That’s really what I wanted out of this time. We’ll see how I feel in the morning. I’ll talk to coach and the training staff and see where we go from there.”

Durant had his best game since returning from his hamstring injury . The Nets superstar tallied 31 points, four rebounds and four assists on 11-of-15 shooting overall and 4-of-6 from deep. Durant played a total of 27 minutes -- three minutes more than Saturday’s loss against the Lakers.

“It’s a tricky balance because he needs to play a certain amount of minutes for his benefit and at the same time, when the game is that out of hand, you’re caught. Do we want to risk him being out there at this point in the game,” Nash said on Durant’s minutes. “In an ideal world, he’d play closer to 30 minutes tonight but at the same time, he’s out there at the end of the game meaningless minutes, you want to be careful as well. Trying to find that balance and at least he had a good game and got some minutes in his legs.”

Durant wasn’t the only Nets to stuff the stat sheet in the Nets blowout victory Tuesday. Joe Harris had himself a good shooting day, finishing with 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting overall and 5-of-8 from deep in 29 minutes.

DeAndre Jordan played in the win after logging five DNP’s. The Nets veteran big man, who hadn’t played fourth quarter minutes in three weeks, had a good return game scoring 13 points, grabbing five rebounds and handing out two assists in 21 minutes off the bench. And he looked quite spry...

Nic Claxton who started finished with six points on 3-of-4 shooting, eight rebounds, a steal and a block in 21 minutes.

While Jordan provided a spark off the bench, Landry Shamet led the bench gang charge continuing his hot month of April. Shamet recorded 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and 5-of-9 from deep in 26 minutes. Bruce Brown followed with his hustle grabbing 12 rebounds to go along with nine points and three assists in the win.

The Nets ball handling corps suffered yet another blow as Chris Chiozza was ruled out for the second half with a hand injury after 14 minutes of action.

“I’m not sure. Unfortunately, he definitely hurt it but I’ll have to wait for the actual diagnosis,” Nash said.

For the Timberwolves - who were without Karl Anthony-Towns and Malik Beasley - Anthony Edwards paved the way scoring 27 points in 33 minutes followed by former cornerstone Net, D’Angelo Russell, who scored 15 points in 20 minutes on a minutes restriction.

“D-Lo is still my boy at the end of the day,” said Harris who along with Spencer Dinwiddie is the only remaining holdover from the Russell-Nets era. “Me and him keep tabs all the time. I see him in the offseason. Regardless of where he’s playing, he’s still going to be my boy. We developed a special connection while he was in Brooklyn —— Ed Davis as well —— so it’s always good to see those guys.”

With the loss, Minnesota falls to 14-41 on the season and sits on the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

The shorthanded Nets forged their 28th different starting lineup that included Chiozza, Harris, Durant, Claxton and Jeff Green. The unfamiliar lineup had their offense working just fine in the first. Brooklyn quickly put together an early 22-8 lead with Durant scoring eight points on 3-of-3 shooting, including two threes.

The Timberwolves forged an 8-0 run to close out the first quarter and the run was led by a familiar face. Russell ended the first with 13 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting overall and 3-of-3 from deep to cut the deficit to 33-25 heading into the second.

Brooklyn opened the second on a 16-1 run, holding Minnesota scoreless for the opening two minutes. The play of the first half and arguably the play of the game came from Claxton, who went coast-to-coast displaying his big guard abilities which ended in an and-one (minus the free throw) to put Brooklyn up 53-33...

It was all Nets to close out the first half. Brooklyn concluded the first half with a dominant 21-point lead, pouring 73 first-half points along the way. The Nets 21-point lead marked the second-biggest halftime lead of the season and their biggest lead at the break on the road since April of 2017.

To make things sweeter, the Nets not only dominated the overall score but held advantages in the paint (28-18), second chance points (12-2), rebounding (27-15) and fast break points (16-8). Although the bundle of positives, the Nets turned over the ball eight times.

The Nets carried over their offensive onslaught to the third. Durant, who scored eight points in the Nets hot third quarter start, helped extend their lead to 28 leaving Chris Flinch to call a timeout with 7:05 remaining.

Durant was feeling it in the third, scoring 14 points in 10 minutes of play in the period. While the Nets superstar led the charge, Shamet ended the third with five total threes and 19 points in 23 minutes, contributing to Brooklyn’s 104-74 lead heading into the final 12 minutes of play shooting 52.8 percent overall and 46.4 percent from deep to go along with 26 assists on 38 made shots.

“Just taking more ownership,” Shamet said on his role when the Nets are shorthanded. “I enjoy that. I want to take ownership for mistakes, us having a good tempo offensively, knowing what we’re getting into and I just want to be the best version of myself for my teammates.”

The biggest lead: 45 points.

The Film Room

No James Harden? No Kyrie Irving? No LaMarcus Aldridge? No Tyler Johnson?

No problem.

Brooklyn, typically not the most forceful of teams at starting strong out the gates, bucked that trend against Minnesota; its 20 first-half assists were tied for the highest of any first-half of the season... on 26 makes!

This, in large part, was due to Kevin Durant’s greatness. Duh. 11-for-15 from the field is bonkers. But where he made his mark was from the openings on the court —— particularly near the free throw line. The Wolves threw a variety of coverages at the Nets, yet most of them featured fairly large-to-downright gaping holes in the middle of the floor, especially against zone defenses to close out the quarters, which is what Durant scored against here.

And here, off some drive and kick...

As a guy who loves nothing more than a shooting look from the middle of the floor, Durant’s the ultimate zone breaker. And defense breaker, for that matter.

‘Liberty and Justice FOR ALL’

That was the message Nets and Timberwolves players wore last night in memory of Duante Wright, the 20-year-old Black man killed Sunday in suburban Brooklyn Center.

The Timberwolves also offered a moment of silence...

More Milestones please

Every game brings new milestones for the Nets as a team and individually. Here’s a few from today, courtesy of the Nets PR Department...

With Brooklyn’s win in Minnesota today:

-21st win in last 26 games.

-11th win in last 14 road games, improving to 15-10 on the road.

-16th win in last 19 games vs. West teams, improving to a league-best 18-6 vs. West teams this season.

-Moved back into a tie with Philadelphia atop the East (37-17).

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Brooklyn led Minnesota 104-74 through three quarters.

-Second-biggest lead through three quarters this season (33-point lead on 4/7 vs. New Orleans).

-Eighth lead of 30+ points through three quarters on the road in Nets history, first since 12/29/17 at Miami (35-point lead).

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Kevin Durant (31 points) registered 20+ points in 20 of his 22 games played this season.

The only exceptions: eight points in a health-and-safety protocols-shortened evening (2/5 vs. Toronto) and 17 points in his first game back from injury (4/7 vs. New Orleans).

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With his five 3-pointers made tonight, updated top-five in Nets single-season history in 3-pointers made:

1) D’Angelo Russell - 234 - 2018-19

2) Allen Crabbe - 201 - 2017-18

3) Joe Harris - 183 - 2018-19

4) Joe Harris - 172 - 2019-20

5) Joe Harris - 171 - 2020-21

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Kevin Durant’s first 3-pointer made today was the 1,623rd of his career, moving him into 27th place in NBA history. He hit three more to give him 1,626.

Next up: Steve Nash (1,685)

Bring out the stretcher

Back when Jason Kidd took over as Nets head coach in 2013, the then 40-year-old was asked if he could get back out on the court in an emergency. He responded by saying bring a lot of Advil.

Now with the Nets a bit short handed at the point, with James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Tyler Johnson and Chris Chiozza unavailable. So Kristian Winfield asked Landry Shamet who filled in for Chiozza (hand) in the fourth if he thought his head coach, the 47-year-old Steve Nash could put on the uniform. Shamet was quite frank.

“I might have to carry him out on a stretcher,” said Shamet about his coach playing the point for the Nets. “He shot one jump shot the other day in practice and said, ‘Ah!’ Like, grabbed his back. If Steve gets out there, who knows how it’d go. But I’d have a stretcher ready.”

What does Nash think?

I’d be great for four or five minutes and then the wheels would fly off all over the gym,” said Nash, “so I think we’ll save the world that horror show.”

By the way, player-coaches aren’t permitted under the CBA.

As Sponge Bob might say...

Per Will Hanley.

What’s next

The Nets will be back in action Wednesday as the team travels to Philadelphia to take on the Sixers. The game is set to tip at 7:00 PM ET.

For a different perspective, check out Canis Hoops - our sister site covering the Minnesota Timberwolves.