Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets attempts a layup during the first half against the Miami Heat at FTX Arena on March 26, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (AFP)
Slumping Miami surrendered the NBA Eastern Conference lead on Saturday after a weak performance in a 110-95 home loss to Kevin Durant and the suddenly sizzling Brooklyn Nets.
Durant scored 23 points, Seth Curry added 17 and Andre Drummond had 13 points and 11 rebounds in Brooklyn’s seventh victory over nine games.
The Heat suffered a season-high fourth consecutive loss and fell to 47-28, percentage points behind the Philadelphia 76ers 46-27 for the top spot in the East.
“We’re not concerned in the sense of panicking but yeah, we have to fix some stuff,” Heat guard Kyle Lowry said. “This is one of those games where you really have to say, ‘All right we need to figure some things out.’ They took it to us tonight.”
Bam Adebayo led Miami with 14 points while star forward Jimmy Butler had only seven points on 2-of-9 shooting.
“We have to find ways to get more shots and less turnovers,” Lowry said. “On the defensive end we need to figure out where we’re going to be at all times. We still have some indecisiveness.”
The Nets forced 21 Heat turnovers in improving to 39-35, staying three games behind sixth-place Toronto and the last automatic East playoff spot.
“It’s disappointing,” Miami’s Tyler Herro said. “At this point in the year we want to be playing our best… We’ll continue to work and figure it out before the playoffs.”
Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving had 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Irving makes his season home debut Sunday when the Nets entertain Charlotte. New York City Covid-19 safety rules kept the unvaccinated star from playing in home contests before a recent change exempted athletes from the protocol.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity,” Irving said. “We want to build something here, a legacy, something sustainable, not just put this together real quick and see what happens.”
Idle Philadelphia moved past Miami but reigning NBA champion Milwaukee missed a chance to leap ahead of both clubs with a 127-102 loss at Memphis.
Reserve guard DeAnthony Melton scored 24 points, Desmond Bane added 20 and Dillon Brooks had 19 to spark the Grizzlies, Memphis improving to 17-2 without injured guard Ja Morant and 52-23, the NBA’s second-best record.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a game-high 30 points plus 11 rebounds and four blocked shots but Milwaukee fell to 48-28, the same record as Boston and a half-game behind Miami.
Denver’s Nikola Jokic scored 35 points on 13-for-15 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds for his 25th straight double-double as the host Nuggets beat Oklahoma City 113-107.
“In the last quarter we were much better, getting stops when we needed to get them,” the Serbian playmaker said. “I’m doing whatever I can do to win.”
Denver moved one game ahead of Minnesota for the sixth and final automatic playoff berth in the Western Conference.
Evacuation at Toronto
A speaker fire near the rafters forced the Toronto Raptors to halt their home game against Indiana and evacuate Scotiabank Arena before the contest was completed without spectators.
Police said there were no injuries. Toronto Fire Services had requested the evacuation as a precaution.
The contest was stopped with the Raptors leading the Pacers 66-38 with 4:05 remaining in the second quarter.
Toronto went on to win 131-91 with Pascal Siakam scoring 23 points and Scottie Barnes adding 19.
The Raptors climbed to sixth with an eighth triumph in 10 games and pulled within a game of fifth-place Chicago, which edged Cleveland 98-94.
Zach LaVine scored 25 points and DeMar DeRozan added 20 to power visiting Chicago (43-31). The Cavaliers (41-33) fell to seventh.
Keldon Johnson netted 21 points to lead seven double-digit scorers for the San Antonio Spurs in a 107-103 victory at New Orleans.
C.J. McCollum had 32 points for the Pelicans, who fell to 31-43, one game ahead of the Spurs for the last play-in berth in the West.
Davion Mitchell had 22 points to lead Sacramento in a 114-110 overtime triumph at Orlando.
Turkish 19-year-old rookie center Alperen Sengun scored 27 points off the bench to lead the Houston Rockets over host Portland 115-98.
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