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Durant scores 53 as Nets win over Knicks

RISING TO THE OCCASION Kevin Durant (7) of the Brooklyn Nets shoots the ball as RJ Barrett (9) and Jericho Sims of the New York Knicks defend during the first half at Barclays Center on Sunday, March 13, 2022 (March 14 in Manila) in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. PHOTO BY SARAH STIER/AFP

RISING TO THE OCCASION Kevin Durant (7) of the Brooklyn Nets shoots the ball as RJ Barrett (9) and Jericho Sims of the New York Knicks defend during the first half at Barclays Center on Sunday, March 13, 2022 (March 14 in Manila) in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. PHOTO BY SARAH STIER/AFP

WASHINGTON: Kevin Durant erupted for 53 points to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 110-107 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday (Monday in Manila) while teammate Kyrie Irving couldn't play but attended as a spectator.

New York City's private sector Covid-19 vaccine mandates mean unvaccinated Irving still can't play NBA games in New York, at either the Nets' Barclays Center or the Knicks' Madison Square Garden.

But relaxed rules meant he could attend the game as a fan, an anomaly that frustrated NBA rival LeBron James.

“It literally makes ABSOLUTELY ZERO SENSE!!!” James tweeted. “They say if common sense was common then we'd all have it. Ain't that the truth.”

Durant agreed.

“It's ridiculous,” Durant said after the game. “I don't understand it at all. There's a few people in our arena that's unvaxxed, right? They lifted all of that in our arena, right?

“It just didn't make any sense. We got a guy who can come into the building. Are they fearing our safety? I don't get it. We're all confused. Pretty much everybody in the world is confused at this point. Early on in the season, people didn't understand what was going on, but now it just looks stupid.”

Without Irving, limited to playing away games, and with new acquisition Ben Simmons yet to make his Nets debut, it was again up to Durant to carry Brooklyn.

Durant was one shy of his career-high scoring night with six rebounds and nine assists. Durant's 3-pointer with 56.3 seconds remaining put the Nets ahead to stay at 106-103.

“Kevin was unbelievable,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “Carried us. Made a lot of big plays. Rebounds, assists, the whole deal. He was Kevin Durant on full display.”

Durant posted the eighth 50-plus point game of his career and his second this season.

Only two other players, Irving and James, have reached the half-century mark in at least two games this season.

The Nets hope changes in regulations will allow Irving to play home games once the playoffs start on April 16.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams removed the public sector vaccine and mask mandates in February, so the unvaccinated were allowed in bars and venues like the Barclays Center.

But a private sector mandate requiring employees of New York-based businesses to be vaccinated remains in place, and no exception will be made for Irving, Adams saying it would “send the wrong message.”

Meanwhile, James reached a milestone in the Los Angeles Lakers' 140-111 loss at Phoenix.

James became the first NBA player with 30,000 career points, 10,000 career rebounds and 10,000 career assists with his second assist of the game, a pass to Carmelo Anthony.

Luka Doncic had 26 points, eight assists, and eight rebounds and Spencer Dinwiddie hit the decisive 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to lift Dallas over host Boston, 95-92.

It was the Mavericks' sixth triumph in seven games and snapped Boston's five-game win streak.

The Celtics retired the No. 5 jersey of Kevin Garnett after the game. The 45-year-old Hall of Fame big man was NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 when he led Boston to the NBA title.

Joel Embiid scored 35 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, while James Harden and Tobias Harris each scored 26 points as Philadelphia edged Orlando, 116-114, in overtime.

Trae Young scored 47 points to lead Atlanta over Indiana 131-128, while Marcus Morris scored 31 points to lead the Los Angeles Clippers over host Detroit, 106-102.

Ja Morant had 17 points and 10 assists for Memphis in a 125-118 triumph at Oklahoma City, while Jonas Valanciunas had 32 points in New Orleans' 130-105 victory over Houston.

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