Watch Irving score 22, but with Harden it’s not enough Trail Blazers lead the net

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PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) – Anfernee Simons had 23 points and 11 assists, and the shorthanded Portland Trail Blazers took advantage of James Harden’s absence for a 114-108 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night.

Harden came out with a hyperextended left knee. Kyrie Irving started his second game of the season and finished with 22 points. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets.

Robert Covington had 21 points, including five 3-pointers, for the Blazers, who saw all five starters score in double digits.

Simons said Covington’s play against Durant gave the team a boost.

“I think RoCo did a good job getting him to play in the second half,” said Simons. “So it was important for us to slow him down and play a bit of team defense. We played very hard, we made a lot less mistakes in defense. It helped us.

Monday’s game was originally scheduled for December 23, but was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. In catching up, both teams played the second in quick succession.

Portland led 87-81 heading into the final quarter. The Covington 3-point pointer gave Portland a 107-100 lead with 2:15 remaining, but the Nets closed at 110-105 down the stretch.

Ben McLemore’s 3 with 31.9 seconds left was 113-105 and sealed it for Portland. McLemore finished with 20 points and five 3s.

“Certainly no one in the world thought we would win this game with the guys we miss, even though they are missing some important players,” Portland freshman coach Chauncey Billups said. “I’m happier than anything for our team, to be honest. We have suffered a lot of losses in this building, a lot of bad losses.

The Blazers were once again without Damian Lillard, with lower abdominal tendinopathy, and his backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, who was out for 14 games after a collapsed lung. Other starters Norman Powell (COVID-19 protocols) and Larry Nance Jr. (right knee) were also absent for Portland.

Meanwhile, Nets coach Steve Nash said the team are cautious with Harden in a dense game streak and that Harden is expected to be available in Chicago on Wednesday.

Irving, who refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and is not allowed to play in New York due to the city’s vaccination mandate, has hit the road again. In his first game last week in Indiana, he finished with 22 points in almost 32 minutes.

“I felt like I made some good moves but now I’m just going back to that NBA action of that athleticism and catching up to that speed, that’s really what it is at this point I think.” , Irving said.

Irving appeared to twist his ankle in the fourth quarter but then said he was fine and would play on Wednesday. He criticized Portland’s Nassir Little for diving into the game: “I tried to pull away but just felt like it wasn’t necessary for him to dive that far off the ball.”

Brooklyn led 62-55 at the break, punctuated by Durant with 20 points. It was his 19th straight game with 20 or more points, the second longest 20-point streak in Nets history.

“In the second half, they touched 3 in the third quarter, they touched 3 in the fourth quarter. You have to give them credit for shooting down, but I thought we were there, the intentions were good, ”Durant said. “We just need to finish it a little better, to finish it plays a little better.”

The Nets arrived in Portland on Sunday night after claiming victory over Spurs and crossing the country. Then there’s another long flight ahead for Wednesday night’s game against the Bulls. And on Thursday, they’re back at home against the Thunder.

The Nets play four games in five days and five games over the next seven days.

“I think it’s really important for us to take it day to day right now. I know it’s a cliché, but I think it’s the smartest way to approach it, ”Nash said.

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