Durant, O’Neale push Nets past Trail Blazers
Los Angeles, United States — Brooklyn’s Royce O’Neale notched a triple-double that included the game-winning tip-in in the last second Thursday as the Nets beat the NBA’s West-leading Trail Blazers 109-107 in Portland.
Kevin Durant led the Nets with 35 points. O’Neale scored 11 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists and Ben Simmons scored 15 points with 13 rebounds for his first double-double since joining the Nets.
Yuta Watanabe added 20 points off the bench for the Nets, who finished out their four-game Western road swing at 2-2 and reportedly can look forward to the return of suspended Kyrie Irving when they host Memphis on Sunday.
Durant became the 19th NBA player to reach 26,000 career points, and the first since Michael Jordan in 1988-89 to begin the season with 13 straight 25-point games.
But when his turnaround jump shot with 2.2 seconds remaining and the teams tied at 107-107 didn’t fall it was O’Neale to the rescue.
The Nets veteran tipped it in with seven-tenths of a second remaining to seal a hard-fought victory.
Watanabe’s contribution included a three-pointer that put the Nets up by three going into the fourth quarter.
The Trail Blazers, led by 25 points from Damian Lillard, had taken a five-point lead with less than nine minutes remaining, but after they wasted a pair of possessions Durant put the Nets up 97-95.
Another Watanabe three-pointer put the Nets up 106-101 with 1:47 left but the Blazers kept battling, Jusuf Nurkic converting a three-point play to tie it up again at 107-107 with 6.5 seconds left.
“If a coach could draw up a game that ended with a win at the last moment, that was it,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “We didn’t panic. A group grows that way.”
Vaughn said Japan’s Watanabe was a prime example of the team’s resolve.
“Yuta didn’t have the best first half, but his teammates trusted him. He was the prime example of sticking with it.”
It was an encouraging performance after the Nets failed to show the same resiliency in a loss to Sacramento on Tuesday in which the Kings scored 153 points.
And the Nets could soon have more good news, with multiple media outlets reporting that Irving could return on Sunday.
The star guard was suspended after failing to make a timely apology for posting a social media link to a film widely condemned as anti-Semitic.
In Los Angeles, the Clippers celebrated the return of Kawhi Leonard with a 96-91 come-from-behind victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Leonard, sidelined for more than a year with a torn knee ligament, had come off the bench in two of the Clippers first three games of the season then missed 12 games after experiencing stiffness in the knee on October 25.
“It felt good,” he said after scoring six points with five rebounds and four assists in just under 25 minutes on the floor.
His night was over by the time Los Angeles — who trailed 50-42 at halftime — rallied in the second half against a Pistons team led by 26 points from Bojan Bogdanovic.
In Sacramento, De’Aaron Fox scored 28 points and handed out eight assists in an efficient performance that propelled the Kings to a 130-112 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Fox made 11 of his 15 attempts from the floor, including two of three from three-point range, and didn’t give up a turnover.
Malik Monk added 26 points off the bench for the Kings, who had six players score in double digits.
The Spurs had clawed back from a double-digit deficit and tied it up 80-80 when Josh Richardson connected with Charles Bassey for an alley-oop dunk with 2:29 remaining in the third.
But the Kings, who never trailed, poured it on, out-scoring the Spurs 50-32 the rest of the way, including a 41-30 advantage in the final period as they relentlessly rebuilt their lead on the way to a fifth straight win.
Devin Vassell was a bright spot for the injury-depleted spurs, scoring a game-high 29 points.
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