There is a "good chance" Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant will leave the NBA's coronavirus protocols this week, according to head coach Steve Nash.

The 11-time All-Star entered the health and safety protocols on December 18, but he could be out and ready to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

Kyrie Irving, who went into protocols on the same day as Durant, is further away from a return to action.

"I think there's a good chance Kevin will be [fit for Thursday]," Nash told reporters.

"With Kyrie, I'm not so sure but it's coming. He's already been in protocols since December 18; he's got to be getting close."

Brooklyn earlier stated that Irving will re-join the NBA championship-chasing franchise for road games outside of New York and Toronto.

Irving is yet to play for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets this season due to his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, which has prevented him from practising or playing with the team – New York has a mandate in place that states players must have had a COVID-19 jab.

At the start of the season, the Nets announced they would not accept Irving playing on a part-time basis and thus overlooked him for selection until he is vaccinated.

But due to injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak, Brooklyn have opted to bring Irving back.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach David Fizdale lamented that LeBron James' effort is being "wasted on losses" after slipping to a 122-115 defeat against the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day.

The loss was the Lakers' fifth straight defeat and saw them slump to a disappointing seventh place in the Western Conference with a 16-18 record.

However, James put in another terrific individual performance – scoring a season-high 39 points, the fourth game in a row in which he has broken the 30-point barrier – and Fizdale revealed his frustration at not being able to capitalise on his star's strong showings.

"I'm kicking myself in the head because he's giving me incredible effort," Fizdale said after the game. "[I'm] trying to figure out ways to get him over the hump with that effort, and I hate that it's wasted on losses. Just spectacular.

"But to watch it, to be a part of it, even though those games are turning into L's, I've never seen anything like this guy. And we better sure as hell be thanking our lucky stars for this guy."

While James' individual display could hardly be faulted, the same could not be said of fellow Lakers star Russell Westbrook, who managed just 13 points on Saturday.

James defended the point-guard's performance, however, focusing instead on the effort his team-mate put in during the game.

"He gave us extra possessions, he gave us a lot of looks around the basket, which I know that he can't stand [failing to convert] as well," James said.

"But as far as the effort piece, if a guy plays hard, if a guy leaves it all out on the floor, I've got no problem with that. It's a make-or-miss league."

Fizdale agreed that the 33-year-old Westbrook could not be criticised for lack of effort, and suggested that taking some pressure off himself would lead to an improved scoring record.

"A big part of it is he just wants it so bad," Fizdale said. "I mean, you can just see it in him, everybody does. He wants it so bad. And I know that's just hard for him when it doesn't work out. And I know he cares like crazy.

"I just want him to take a lot of that pressure off himself, keep attacking, keep playing the way we know he can."

James Harden marked his return to action with a telling triple-double as the Brooklyn Nets snatched a dramatic 122-115 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

For the Lakers, LeBron James scored 39 points and became the NBA's highest scorer all-time in Christmas Day games, reaching 422 points on December 25 across his career to surpass Kobe Bryant's 395 haul.

However, Russell Westbrook shot only 4-of-20 from the field, meaning his own triple-double of 13 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists was tinged with disappointment.

It allowed Harden and Patty Mills to guide the Nets to a hard-earned win over a Lakers side who have lost five successive games to slide to 16-18 for the season.

Mills matched a career-best with 34 points, and his eight three-pointers established a new NBA record for Christmas Day.

 

Harden's haul of 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists came in his first game out of COVID-19 protocols and boosted the shorthanded Nets to 22-9, with Brooklyn rallying despite being without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and LaMarcus Aldridge, among others.

The Lakers trailed 102-82 entering the final quarter but got back to 115-115 with 45 seconds remaining, yet Nic Claxton restored Brooklyn's lead, and Harden's accuracy from the free-throw line saw them pull clear in the closing moments.

This was the first Christmas Day game with multiple triple-doubles, the NBA said.


Antetokounmpo rebounds with stellar show

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo joined Harden in making a stellar return to action, after also serving time in isolation due to the health and safety protocols.

After missing five games, Antetokounmpo scored 36 points and had 12 rebounds in a 117-113 win for the Bucks over the Boston Celtics.

That improved the Bucks, who sit third in the Eastern Conference, to 22-13 for the season. It was the fifth time this season that Antetokounmpo has topped 35 points in a game.

Christmas Curry proves a rare treat

Heading into the Golden State Warriors' game with the Phoenix Suns, Stephen Curry was averaging a meagre 13.1 points in his eight career games on Christmas. That ranked as his worst average points haul on any date he has played on more than twice.

This time Curry came good though, bagging a game-high 33 points in a 116-107 win for the Warriors.

There was cause for Christmas cheer for the New York Knicks' Kemba Walker too. The Knicks landed a 101-87 win over the Atlanta Hawks, led by Julius Randle's 25 points and 12 rebounds, with Walker weighing in with the team's first triple-double on Christmas Day. He finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, and on the right side of the scoreboard.

A magical man with a big beard bringing joy to people on Christmas Day? Yes, James Harden is back from COVID-19 protocols as the Brooklyn Nets travel to the Los Angeles Lakers for a festive fixture.

Nets coach Steve Nash confirmed the news on Thursday, while Paul Millsap and Jevon Carter are also newly available, but Brooklyn still have 10 players in protocols.

Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Day'Ron Sharpe, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre' Bembry, Bruce Brown and James Johnson have been joined by rookies Kessler Edwards, David Duke Jr. and Cameron Thomas.

The Nets have not played since a 100-93 defeat to the Orlando Magic on Saturday at Barclays Center. Their three games leading up to Christmas – at home against the Denver Nuggets and Washington Wizards, then a trip to Portland – were all postponed.

Nonetheless, Nash's team sit top of the Eastern Conference on a 21-9 record, and have not lost back-to-back games this season, though that could be put to the test with a team likely to still be extremely shorthanded in California.

Durant will be a big miss, with the 33-year-old leading the league in points per game (29.7), as will Aldridge, who sits 11th in the league for field-goal percentage (.573).

The home team have been missing players of late too, with head coach Frank Vogel and five of his men being absent as a result of being under the NBA's health and safety protocols in the chastening 138-110 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.

 

The Lakers sit on a surprisingly poor record under .500 (16-17) having lost four on the spin – at Minnesota and Chicago, followed by home defeats to Phoenix and the Spurs.

Despite having LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo on the roster, Vogel has been unable to get a consistent tune out of his all-star line-up.

With the Nets shorthanded to an even greater degree, the opportunity to produce what would have to go down as a slight upset should the Lakers win, given their respective form and records, will surely never be higher.

Davis remains sidelined by an MCL sprain, but the Lakers should still be able to put out a team that looks as strong as any other on paper.

Whether it is the Lakers putting an end to their losing streak or the Nets pulling out a win with barely enough players to call on, someone may just be claiming the occurrence of a festive miracle in the first encounter at the newly-named Crypto.com Arena.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Los Angeles Lakers – LeBron James

Despite his team being thoroughly outplayed, James managed to score 36 points with nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks in Thursday's defeat to the Spurs, and he will need to pull out a similar effort if the Lakers are to end their losing streak.

The four-time NBA champion has put early-season injury issues behind him to play the last 10 games in a row, scoring 30 or more points in nine of his last 13 outings.

James has also improved his rebound numbers of late, getting double figures in five of his last 10 games, having only done so once in his previous 11.

Brooklyn Nets - James Harden

With Durant, Irving and Aldridge unavailable, all eyes will be on Harden to finally show the form that won him the 2018 NBA MVP award in Houston.

The 32-year-old is averaging just 20.8 points per game this season, his lowest since the 2011-12 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. His 40.4 per cent success rate from the field is also the lowest since his rookie year.

However, Harden has proven in the past that he can rise to the occasion when he's the main man, and sitting just 20 career assists away from 6,000, he may just roll back the years and pull the strings in the arena now formerly known as the Staples Center.

KEY BATTLE – Can the Nets be as deadly in mid-range?

Brooklyn currently sit top of the table for mid-range points this season, averaging 49.1, well ahead of the Utah Jazz in second (45.3).

Harden is third in the league for most points per game created via assists (21.8), behind only Chris Paul (23.0) and Trae Young (21.9), while Harden (24.4 per cent) and fellow Nets star Patty Mills (29.7 per cent) claim the top two spots for highest percentage of assists for mid-range field goals made.

However, the Lakers have the fourth-best record in the league for lowest field goal percentage allowed from mid-range (38.0), and so it is an area to keep an eye out for, especially with Aldridge and Durant out, both sitting in the top 10 for highest field-goal percentage from mid-range.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Lakers prevailed 126-101 when these two last met in April, and the teams have enjoyed five wins each from their last 10 encounters.

Brooklyn Nets trio James Harden, Paul Millsap and Jevon Carter have cleared COVID-19 protocols ahead of their Christmas Day game against the struggling Los Angeles Lakers.

Harden entered protocols early last week, leaving the Nets depleted with Kevin Durant also among those sidelined, leading to three Brooklyn games being postponed.

Nets head coach Steve Nash revealed that Cam Thomas, Kessler Edwards and David Duke Jr had all entered protocols, totalling 13 Brooklyn players since 13 December, but added they would have enough to face the Lakers on Saturday.

"James Harden, Paul Millsap and Jevon Carter are out of protocols," Nash told reporters on Thursday. "The plan is to fly to Los Angeles tomorrow and play on Christmas.

"There were a few days we had to shut everything down out of precaution. It's started back up yesterday and today with guys back on the court in isolation.

"It's tricky, we haven't been able to do a lot. We'll continue to adapt as the rules and mandates come in."

The Nets have a 21-9 record to be top of the Eastern Conference but have not played since 18 December.

The NBA has postponed a total of five games, including three that were set to be played on Sunday, due to rising COVID-19 cases.

The Brooklyn Nets have lost a significant number of players to positive tests, with 10 players presently in the health and safety protocols – a list that includes stars such as James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – and their games against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday and the Washington Wizards two days will not go ahead.

The Eastern Conference leaders had just eight fit players for Saturday's 100-93 defeat against the Orlando Magic, who are 6-25 and sit just 14th in the table.

Meanwhile, seven Cleveland Cavaliers players tested positive between Saturday and Sunday, meaning they do not meet the minimum requirement of eight healthy players and are unable to play the Atlanta Hawks, according to NBA rules.

The game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Orleans Pelicans will also be postponed, with the former also struggling to come up with eight fit players.

However, it is possible the Sixers will be able to return to action against the Boston Celtics on Monday.

Monday features yet another suspended game, though, as the Magic's clash with the Toronto Raptors is also not going ahead due to a number of cases at Orlando.

The NBA has now had to postpone seven games this season after the Chicago Bulls' fixtures with the Detroit Pistons and the Raptors were called off earlier this month.

Steve Nash was proud of the effort his depleted Brooklyn Nets team put in during the loss to the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

The Eastern Conference leaders had 10 players in COVID-19 protocol, including the returning Kyrie Irving, as well as James Harden and Kevin Durant.

Such was the dire situation, the Nets signed James Ennis III and Shaquille Harrison before the game, while Cam Thomas and Kessler Edwards made their first career NBA starts and David Duke Jr just his third.

Despite the difficult circumstances, Duke hit a three to tie up the game before the Magic were able to win out 100-93.

Head coach Nash had nothing but praise for the way his side performed amid the circumstances, though.

"I thought it was an outstanding effort to get back in the game and tie it late, I'm really proud of the effort," he said.

"We probably made too many mistakes defensively but that effort to come back, find a way to level it and then we got a little unlucky, they made a tough three, we had a backcourt violation, those things happen.

"We probably had too much to make up for those offensive efforts but that's going to happen, we got a bunch of guys who are with us for the first time, got a bunch of guys who are playing extended minutes in multiple games for the first time, and overall I'm really proud of them it was a great effort."

Patty Mills put up 23 points for the Nets, while Blake Griffin had 17 and Cam Thomas 15.

One of the brightest notes of the game came from the performance of Duke, though, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds.

"I thought he was great, I talked to him at halftime because I thought he looked to score a little too much," Nash added.

"We love him because he does so many things well; he defends, he steals, deflections, offensive rebounds, hustle play.

"I said you're going to get your 20 points but you're going to get it out of the game not going out and finding it. He was great, he understood that and his approach in the second half was outstanding.

"He was disruptive offensively, got his hands on a lot of things, was a killer on the glass. He was a bright spot."

With so many players out there was an opportunity for the experienced Griffin, who has found himself out of the Nets' rotation.

"Blake's played great, I think I've said to him there's always something around the corner in this league," Nash said.

"He was out the rotation for a while but we knew something would happen and he'd get his opportunity again. He's a pro and worked his butt off, stayed in shape, found good rhythm, and he's playing good basketball. 

"Unfortunately he took a little knock on the knee tonight and we couldn't get the game but his effort was outstanding."

Fred VanVleet starred as the Toronto Raptors won 119-100 over the Golden State Warriors who rested star guard Stephen Curry on Saturday.

VanVleet finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists as the Raptors blew the Warriors away in the first half, leading 63-42.

Curry (rest), Draymond Green (right hip), Andre Iguodala (right knee), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot) and Andrew Wiggins (left knee) were all absent for Golden State and returned to California to avoid potential COVID-19 exposure and quarantine in Canada.

The Raptors made their absence count, shooting 45 of 90 from the field, becoming the first side the Warriors have allowed this season to shoot at 50 percent or better.

The Warriors' sixth defeat of the season leaves them second in the Western Conference with a 24-6 record.

 

Wizards end Jazz run

Bradley Beal scored a season-high 37 points and had seven assists and five rebounds as the Washington Wizards ended the Utah Jazz's eight-game winning streak 109-103. Donovan Mitchell scored 32 points for the Jazz, while Rudy Gobert had 19 rebounds with 11 points.

Cedi Osman came off the bench to top score for the Cleveland Cavaliers with 23 points as they won 119-90 over the Milwaukee Bucks, who were missing Giannis Antetokounmpo due to COVID protocols.

Luke Kennard's (27 points, seven rebounds) heroics could not lift the Los Angeles Clippers to victory, going down 104-103 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were led by rookie Josh Giddey (eight points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists).

 

Weakened Nets lose to struggling Magic

The depleted Brooklyn Nets, missing star trio Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden due to COVID protocols, were beaten 100-93 by the lowly Orlando Magic for their sixth win of the season. The loss was the Nets' ninth.

Kevin Durant is the latest Brooklyn Nets star to enter the NBA's coronavirus protocols.

Durant was already ruled out of Saturday's game against the Orlando Magic due to an ankle injury.

The Nets revealed the 11-time All-Star would not have been able to play in that match even without that issue, however, after he joined a lengthy list of absentees who have entered the health and safety protocols.

That list is now up to nine, one of which is point guard Kyrie Irving.

Brooklyn earlier stated that Irving will re-join the NBA championship-chasing franchise for road games outside of New York and Toronto.

Irving is yet to play for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets this season due to his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, which has prevented him from practising or playing with the team – New York has a mandate in place that states players must have had a COVID-19 jab.

At the start of the season, the Nets announced they would not accept Irving playing on a part-time basis and thus overlooked him for selection until he is vaccinated.

But due to injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak, which has sidelined superstar and former MVP James Harden, Brooklyn have opted to bring Irving back.

Kyrie Irving will re-join the Brooklyn Nets after the NBA championship-chasing franchise announced the part-time return of the All-Star for road games outside of New York and Toronto.

Irving is yet to play for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets this season due to his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, which has prevented him from practising or playing with the team – New York has a mandate in place that states players must have had a COVID-19 jab.

At the start of the season, the Nets announced they would not accept Irving playing on a part-time basis and thus overlook him for selection until he is vaccinated.

But due to injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak, which has sidelined superstar and former MVP James Harden, Brooklyn have opted to bring back Irving.

"After discussions with our coaches, players and staff, the organisation has decided to have Kyrie Irving re-join the team for games and practices in which he is eligible to participate," Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement on Friday, with Brooklyn's next road contest against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 23.

"We arrived at this decision with the full support of our players and after careful consideration of our current circumstances, including players missing games due to injuries and health and safety protocols.

"We believe that the addition of Kyrie will not only make us a better team but allow us to more optimally balance the physical demand on the entire roster.

"We look forward to Kyrie's return to the line-up, as well as getting our entire roster back together on the court."

In 2020-21, Irving averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game as the Nets lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals to eventual champions the Milwaukee Bucks.

Irving enjoyed a career-high 50.6 field-goal percentage and joint-career best 92.2 free-throw percentage last season.

With Harden missing the last three games while in health and safety protocols, Kevin Durant is averaging 39.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists. The Nets are 3-0 in those games.

Kevin Durant felt as if the Philadelphia 76ers underestimated the Brooklyn Nets due to their COVID-19 outbreak ahead of Thursday's 114-105 victory.

The Nets had just nine players available for selection ahead of the visit of Eastern Conference rivals the 76ers.

Nets coach Steve Nash commented beforehand about being concerned with how much game time Durant was having to play, describing it as "not safe or unsustainable" – though the depleted nature of their squad did not give him much of an option but to play him.

Before Thursday's win, Durant ranked second in minutes per game (36.9) in the NBA this season, and he racked up another 39 against the 76ers.

But it was probably just as well considering he tallied a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds – no one on the court bettered him in either respect.

The win improved the Nets to 21-8 and Durant reckoned they caught the 76ers in slack form.

"We played with a great brand of basketball right from the start," he said. "I think they came in too relaxed, they've seen we've only got nine players.

"We came out, hit them early and stuck with it. In the fourth quarter we just had good energy. We fed off that in the first three quarters and then in the fourth we were able to cruise."

On his own personal performance after another gruelling outing, the 33-year-old added: "I just try to do what's required, man.

"I mean, I want to be out there. I want to play. I want to win. So, it starts there. Whatever I've got to do to accomplish those three things, I'm going to do."

"It's basketball at end of the day, it's simple, I've been doing all my life. No matter who's on the floor, opponents or team-mates, I've just got to go out and be me. I'm just grateful I'm available to play."

76ers coach Doc Rivers was not drawn on the idea his team were complacent – instead, he commented on the standard of officiating, convinced Joel Embiid was not being protected enough.

"I thought Joel got fouled the last three post possessions, and-ones, and none was called," said Rivers.

"I don't know how a team can play the fourth quarter of a game where we're driving the ball and posting the ball and they have zero fouls. It's hard to play a quarter in the NBA and commit no fouls. Very surprised by that."

Embiid added: "I mean, they're the home team. I thought we got fouled a few times, especially down there. But, I mean, it's frustrating when they're calling fouls for the other teams down there and you don't get any. I can see what he [Rivers] was talking about."

Kevin Durant was the hero again for the Brooklyn Nets after lifting the shorthanded Eastern Conference leaders past the Philadelphia 76ers 114-105.

The Nets have been ravaged by COVID-19, with superstar James Harden among the absentees after entering the NBA's health and safety protocols.

But Durant carried the Nets on Thursday, scoring 34 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to help see off the rallying 76ers in Brooklyn.

With the game tied less than two minutes from the end, Durant came up big via a four-point play, having been fouled on a three-point attempt.

Durant was coming off an NBA season-high 51 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, and 34 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in his previous two games.

Joel Embiid put up 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists but the slumping 76ers still fell to their third consecutive defeat.

 

Suns do their thing

The Phoenix Suns capped a balanced performance with a 118-98 victory at home to the Washington Wizards. All five starters, and eight players in total, had double-digit points. Thanks to the win, the Suns moved level with the Golden State Warriors for the NBA lead at 23-5.

The New York Knicks snapped a four-game losing streak via a 116-103 triumph over the Houston Rockets, behind Immanuel Quickley (24 points), Evan Fournier (23 points) and Julius Randle (21 points).

 

Sorry Pistons lose… again

The less said about the Detroit Pistons right now, the better. Detroit were condemned to a 13th successive loss, the Pistons beaten 122-113 by the Indiana Pacers. Detroit (4-23) own the NBA's worst record.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash admitted he is concerned with Kevin Durant's workload, describing it as "not safe or sustainable".

Before Thursday's 114-105 win over Eastern Conference rivals the Philadelphia 76ers, Durant ranked second in minutes per game (36.9) this NBA season.

The shorthanded Nets, who have been hit by a COVID-19 outbreak, have relied heavily on their superstar in 2021-22 – Durant played a season-high 48 minutes in Tuesday's overtime victory against the Toronto Raptors.

Not since 2013-14, during his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder (38.5), has former MVP Durant averaged more minutes per game in his illustrious career.

"It's a really important topic," Nash before the Eastern Conference-leading Nets outlasted the rallying 76ers in Brooklyn, with Durant playing a team-high 39 minutes.

"I don't know we can continue to lean on him the way we have. It doesn't feel right.

"I know he's enjoying it. I know he's enjoying playing at the rate he's playing at and trying to bring his team-mates along with him and all the responsibility that he's accepted and crushed, basically.

"It's just been incredible. But, at the same time, it's not safe or sustainable to lean on him like that. There's gonna be a lot of consideration and we'll have to figure out ways to give him breaks."

Durant was ice-cold against the 76ers, posting 34 points – including a pair of three-pointers, 11 rebounds and eight assists to lift the Nets.

The Nets are top of the Eastern Conference with a 21-8 record, two and a half games clear of defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Brooklyn Nets might have problems just now, but they sit top of the Eastern Conference and continue their home run on Thursday as they host the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center.

Kevin Durant starred with a triple-double in Brooklyn's overtime win over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, dragging the Nets to a 131-129 triumph.

The success came after a whirlwind day for the Nets, who had to place seven players, including James Harden, into the NBA's health and safety protocols due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the camp.

Brooklyn sit on 20 wins from 28 games for the season, with a divisional contest against the Sixers (15-14) next up on Thursday.

Philadelphia went down to the Miami Heat on Wednesday, with Gabe Vincent registering 26 points – including a vital fourth-quarter three-pointer – as Erik Spoelstra's side recorded a 101-96 triumph.

None of Miami's three leading average points-scorers – Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro or Bam Adebayo – were in the line-up, but the Sixers were also without Georges Niang due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols - the fifth 76ers star to miss time this season for that reason.

Defeat against the Heat made it consecutive losses for the Sixers, following a 126-91 reverse against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.

Philadelphia (15-14) sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, with a 5-5 record over the last 10 games in what has been a stop-start campaign thus far as they prepare to challenge the Nets.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Philadelphia 76ers – Joel Embiid

Embiid has enjoyed a strong recent record against Brooklyn, winning three of his last five encounters with the Nets and personally scoring at least 33 points in each of those victories.

The four-time All-Star has 496 points, 225 rebounds and 62 assists against the Nets across his career, while only Tyrese Maxey (477) has accumulated more points this season for Philadelphia than Embiid (429).

Brooklyn Nets – Kevin Durant

Durant had a game-leading 34 points against the Raptors, as he completed that triple-double – his second of the season – with 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

The former Golden State Warriors star is averaging 29.6 points from 26 games so far in 2021-22, and if his form continues he seems destined to surpass, or come very close to surpassing, his previous best career average of 32.0 set across 81 games in the 2013-14 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

He has a 16-3 career record against the Sixers, averaging 27.3 points per game.

KEY BATTLE – High-scorers could settle the contest

With Durant in such strong form, the Sixers will just be thankful, due to Harden's absence, that they are not facing two players that account for six of the 35 triple-doubles so far this season.

The Los Angeles Lakers (Russell Westbrook – five, LeBron James – two) are the only team with more triple-doubles to their name in 2021-22, and Philadelphia must surely look to keep the Nets on six if they are to clinch victory in Brooklyn.

No Philadelphia player has achieved a triple-double this season, while Embiid has been responsible for eight of the team's 17 double-doubles. Brooklyn are already on 31.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The 76ers certainly have the edge when it comes to recent meetings between the east coast rivals, having won five of the last seven clashes.

However, the Nets won 114-109 at Wells Fargo Center in October, and also won their last home game against Philadelphia back in January.

Kevin Durant said it felt "amazing to be out there" as he inspired the short-handed Brooklyn Nets to victory over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.

There had been some doubt about whether the game would even go ahead after the Nets' list of players in the league's health and safety protocols grew to seven, James Harden and Bruce Brown ruled out within an hour of tip-off.

Durant had also been questionable due to an ankle problem but powered through a game-changing 48 minutes as the Nets won 131-129 in overtime.

Having mustered a season-high 51 points in the win over the Detroit Pistons last Sunday – the eighth 50-point game of his NBA career – Durant posted a triple-double of 34 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

He is the first forward or center to follow a 50-point game with a triple-double since Wilt Chamberlain back in 1968.

"We had to debate Kevin's situation," coach Steve Nash said. "Obviously, we're talking about a franchise player; we don't want to risk it. So we're probably more cautious than he is, but he really wanted to play, and so that was it."

Durant's inspirational impact came as part of a side featuring four rookies, his 14th career triple-double taking the Eastern Conference leaders to 20-8.

"Man, I can't even explain how I feel," he said. "It's December and we're down seven players and we easily could've punted this game.

"But we saw an opportunity for us to grow and get better, especially the younger guys who haven't played a lot of meaningful games in the NBA, especially against a championship organisation like Toronto. [It] was an amazing test for us.

"I'm so proud to just be a part of this group and play with these young dudes... man, it was amazing to be out there."

The Philadelphia 76ers are next up for the Nets at Barclays Center on Friday.

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