Kevin Durant erupted for 53 points to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 110-107 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday 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.”
“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 in 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.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver is among those who say banning Irving while unvaccinated visiting players can take the court in New York “doesn’t quite make sense.”
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.”
“Everybody out here is looking for attention and that’s what I feel like the mayor wants right now,” Durant said. “But he’ll figure it out soon — he better.
“Eric, you got to figure something out man, because it’s looking crazy… he can come to the game, but not play? Come on, man.”
Mavericks edge Celtics
Slovenian swingman Luka Doncic had game highs of 26 points and eight assists plus eight rebounds and Spencer Dinwiddie hit the decisive 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to lift Dallas over host Boston 95-92.
Dinwiddie, who had 18 points, gave the Mavericks their sixth triumph in seven games. Jayson Tatum had 21 points to lead the Celtics, who had a five-game win streak snapped.
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. He retired in 2016 after 21 seasons.
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 to a 106-102 victory at Detroit.
Ja Morant had 17 points and 10 assists and Steven Adams pulled down 16 rebounds for Memphis in a 125-118 win at Oklahoma City while Jonas Valanciunas had 32 points in New Orleans’ 130-105 over Houston.