Durant leads Suns to victory in return to Brooklyn

Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant goes to the basket against Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas (24) and forward Royce O’Neale (00) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday in New York. The Suns won 136-120. (AP)

Kevin Durant scored 33 points to lead Phoenix to a 136-120 victory in Brooklyn Wednesday, his first game there since the blockbuster trade that sent him from the Nets to the Suns last season.

Durant received a warm welcome at his old home, where fans cheered his introduction and the Nets played a pre-game video tribute despite Durant’s expressed doubts that it was appropriate.

Durant added eight assists and heard the cheers turn to boos as Nets fans got frustrated.

The Suns, up by three at halftime, quietened the Barclays Center crowd with an explosive fourth quarter, Durant scoring 11 points in the period as Phoenix outscored Brooklyn, 42-26, to take control.

Jusuf Nurkic scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Suns and Devin Booker added 22.

“It was cool,” Durant said of being back in Brooklyn, where the dream that he would combine with Kyrie Irving and James Harden to take the Nets to a title fizzled.

Now the Suns are hoping a big three of Durant, Booker and Bradley Beal can help them contend for a title, and Durant said his experiences in Brooklyn — like those of his current teammates elsewhere — can only help their cause.

“Everybody’s been through a lot of things in our locker room, in this league, switching teams, injuries all that stuff,” Durant said. “We’re bringing all that together and we try to use that experience and that knowledge to make us a better team.”

In Oklahoma City, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 34 points to lead the Thunder in a 105-100 victory over the defending champion Denver Nuggets, who were without two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic because of lower back trouble.

In Jokic’s absence the Thunder held the Nuggets to 39.8 percent shooting. They outrebounded Denver 53-47 and outscored them 50-34 in the paint.

The Thunder’s third win in four games against the Nuggets this season moved Oklahoma City to second in the Western Conference.

They are one game behind the Minnesota Timberwolves, who eased past the short-handed Dallas Mavericks 121-87.

Karl-Anthony Towns led Minnesota with 29 points while Josh Green’s 18 paced the Mavs, who were without injured Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving.

The absence of star forward Paul George didn’t slow the Los Angeles Clippers in a 125-109 victory over the Wizards in Washington.

Up by six at halftime, the Clippers out-scored the Wizards 40-19 in the third quarter to take control.

Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 31 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four steals and Los Angeles bounced back from a Monday defeat at Cleveland and have now won nine of their last 11 games.

Heat halt skid

In Cleveland, the Cavaliers welcomed Darius Garland back from an extended injury absence with a 128-121 home win over the Detroit Pistons.

Donovan Mitchell poured in 45 points for Cleveland and Garland — in his first game since suffering a broken jaw in a game at Boston on December 14 — added 19.

Cleveland led much of the night and held off a late Pistons charge.

Detroit grabbed a 118-116 lead on Jalen Duren’s layup with 3:18 to play, but Isaac Okoro answered with a layup for Cleveland, launching the Cavs on a 10-0 scoring run to seal the win.

The Miami Heat, fueled by 31 points from Jimmy Butler, snapped a seven-game skid with a 115-106 home victory over the Sacramento Kings.

Sacramento’s Keegan Murray led all scorers with 33 points and Domantas Sabonis had a triple-double of 19 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists. (Agence-France-Presse)

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