MINNEAPOLIS: Anthony Edwards #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves plays defense on Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. – AFP

MINNEAPOLIS: Kevin Durant scored 31 points as the Brooklyn Nets bounced back from defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers with a blowout victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. Durant led the scorers in a 127-97 victory for the Nets in a game that had been postponed 24 hours after unrest in Minneapolis triggered by the deadly police shooting of 20-year-old Black man Daunte Wright during a traffic stop on Sunday.

Durant, making only his third appearance since returning from a near two-month injury layoff, wasted no time in asserting himself, scoring eight points in the first five minutes on court. The Timberwolves, who have the worst record in the NBA with only 14 victories this season and 41 losses, were never in contention and trailed by a massive 45 points at one stage in the fourth quarter.

Durant got help from guard Joe Harris, who finished with 23 points and Landry Shamet, who added 19 off the bench. DeAndre Jordan also cracked double figures with a 13-point contribution. Anthony Edwards, the Wolves’ No.1 pick in last year’s draft, led the home side’s scorers with 27 points.

Durant said the Nets had blocked out the backdrop of racial tension in Minneapolis which forced the postponement of the game on Monday. “I think guys are obviously aware of what’s going on in our country, we have conversations about this all the time,” Durant said. “But once we step on the floor we understand what our job is.” The former NBA Most Valuable Player meanwhile said the Nets were simply happy to have avoided a wasted trip. “I’m glad the NBA made the game happen and that we didn’t come out here for nothing and we finished it off,” said Durant.

‘Guys have stepped up’
“I felt good out there. I feel like my wind and legs are getting under me with each and every minute I’m playing.” The Nets face a crunch clash with the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday where first place in the Eastern Conference will be at stake. The Nets and Sixers are neck-and-neck with identical 37-16 records.

Nets coach Steve Nash was pleased by his team’s emphatic victory, which came despite a raft of absent players including Kyrie Irving, James Harden and LaMarcus Aldridge. “Guys have stepped up,” Nash said. “We’ve got a lot of wins this season where we’ve been undermanned. I’m proud of the effort and tonight was another one where we took care of the task in front of us.”

Nash, a two-time former NBA MVP, meanwhile ruled out making himself available for the injury-hit Nets. “I’d be great for four or five minutes and then the wheels would fly off,” the 47-year-old joked. “Think I’ll save the world that horror show.” In other games on Tuesday, the Utah Jazz shrugged off Monday’s surprise loss to the Washington Wizards to score a 106-96 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Bojan Bogdanovic led Utah’s scoring with 23 points while Donovan Mitchell finished with 22 points for the Jazz, who head the Western Conference with a 41-14 record.

The Los Angeles Clippers meanwhile rolled to a sixth straight victory with their 126-115 win on the road at the Indiana Pacers, Paul George leading the way with a 36-point haul with seven rebounds and eight assists. It was George’s fourth straight with 30 or more points. “When he’s playing like this, we’re a tough team,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said of George’s performance.

In Charlotte, Kyle Kuzma’s 24 points helped the Los Angeles Lakers to a 101-93 defeat of the Hornets. While Kuzma led the Lakers scorers, it was Alex Caruso’s 13 points off the bench that tipped the contest the Lakers way.Caruso drained a three-pointer to put the Lakers 95-91 ahead with 45 seconds remaining and then added two free throws to give his team a six-point cushion. “He does so much dirty work for us, it’s ridiculous,” Vogel said of Caruso. “Everybody’s happy for him.”

Murray out
Denver Nuggets star Jamal Murray has suffered a torn knee ligament and will almost certainly miss the rest of the NBA season, the team and reports said Tuesday. The 24-year-old Canadian guard collapsed to the court in agony just seconds from the end of Monday’s defeat to the Golden State Warriors as he attacked the basket. A statement from the Nuggets said Tuesday a scan had revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament and that Murray faced would be out “indefinitely” with the injury. Multiple US reports said Murray would now face surgery, ruling him out of the remainder of the season.

The injury also deals a blow to Canada’s Olympic hopes — Murray had indicated he was determined to play for the national team and hoped to compete in Tokyo. Monday’s injury at the Chase Center left players from both teams subdued after Murray crumpled to the floor. He declined the offer of a wheelchair to remove him from the arena, instead hobbling away with the help of support staff. Murray has been one of the stars of Denver’s campaign this season, helping the Nuggets build a 34-20 record which has left them fourth in the Western Conference.

With the acquisition of Aaron Gordon from the Orlando Magic, and the MVP-caliber form of Nikola Jokic, Denver had put together a starting roster capable of going deep into the playoffs. The injury to the dynamic Murray deals a shattering blow to the team’s championship aspirations. – AFP