Kevin Durant and Alize Johnson threw up a pair of very different, equally spectacular double-doubles to fuel Brooklyn’s 130-113 win over the Pacers in Indiana on Thursday night.
While Durant poured in 42 points and dished out 10 assists, Johnson had 20 points and 21 rebounds as the Nets won their fourth straight game to improve to 43-20 and keep a grip on first place in the Eastern Conference with nine games remaining in the regular season. The Nets have matched the highest the franchise has ever been over .500 in the franchise’s history, catching the 51-28 mark of the 2002-02 team.
Durant made 16-of-24 shots — including 2-of-4 3-pointers — and all eight of his free throws. The heart of it all was his epic third-quarter outburst — 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting in Brooklyn’s 45-point third quarter in which the Nets stretched their lead to 23 points.
“Kevin's done a great job recently handling the ball,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “And sometimes that takes time when you've when you've been out and you're trying to find a rhythm. So we know how adept he is jumping back in the lineup and making shots, but can he take care of the basketball at times and putting it all together? So it's been really, really impressive. I mean, 10 assists tonight, two turnovers, played through him a lot in the post or on the elbow or the nail, and he was able to pick them apart a little bit. So very, very impressive. I mean, you look at his line. What can I say. I’ve got the luxury of coaching Kevin Durant and stick him in the game and good things happen.”
Over his last eight games since returning from a hamstring strain, Durant has shot 65.4 percent overall and 61.3 percent from 3-point range.
Johnson had 20 points and 21 rebounds — 14 boards in the first half alone — while making 7-of-12 shots and all six of his free throws, plus three assists. He became the first player to record a 20/20 game off the bench since Enes Kanter in November 2018 and the first to do it in a road game since 1992. He also became just the third player in franchise history to accomplish the feat. It was Johnson’s third career double-double and his second in 13 games as a Net.
“Incredible stat line,” said Nash. “He plays with energy and brings it every night. It’s impressive that he can collect that many rebounds and score in a role where we don’t run anything for him. It’s an incredible performance and really happy for him given that he wasn’t even in the league a month ago or so and here he is putting up incredible statlines.”
Jeff Green, Joe Harris, and Landry Shamet had 14 points each and Tyler Johnson scored 11. The Nets shot 52.8 percent overall.
Brooklyn also had 35 assists on its 47 field goals, setting a new franchise record with 24 games with at least 30 assists.
“Six guys in double figures. Thirty-five assists. Only 13 turnovers,” said Durant. “And they shot 42 percent from the field. That's pretty much the game for us. Outrebounding them, too, so when we do that, we're in good shape. Six guys in double figures, more assists, more rebounds, hold them to a low percentage. That's a good formula for us.”
Brooklyn jumped out to a 29-20 lead after making 10 of its first 15 shots and carried a 35-28 lead into the second quarter.
A Harris 3-pointer tipped off an 11-0 run that extended the Brooklyn lead to 46-30. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot scored inside and then knocked down a 3-pointer, and Tyler Johnson’s transition layup had the Nets up by 16. The Nets had their biggest lead of the first half when a Shamet 3-pointer made it 62-43 on the way to a 66-42 halftime lead.
Leading 68-59 early in the third quarter, the Nets ran off 12 straight points, starting with 3-pointers from Harris and Durant. Durant was fouled on a 3-pointer and made all three free throws and Tyler Johnson hit a 3-pointer for an 80-59 lead 2:30 into the second half. Brooklyn soon stretched that to an 86-83 lead as Shamet made a 3-pointer and then a free throw off a technical foul, and Durant’s drive had the Nets up 23.
The Nets took a 111-93 lead into the fourth quarter after scoring 45 points in the third quarter — their highest scoring quarter of the season — while shooting 66.7 percent overall (16-for-24) and 63.6 percent from 3-point range (7-for-11).
The Pacers opened up the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run before Durant made a pair of free throws. Indiana extended that into 13-2 run in cutting the Brooklyn lead to 113-106 with 6:36 remaining as the Nets missed their first seven shots of the quarter.
Durant steadied things for Brooklyn with a jumper and then an assist to Shamet. After Caris LeVert hit a 3-pointer for Indiana, Durant scored again and Alize Johnson scooped up a loose ball in transition for a layup and a 121-109 lead.
“We probably just relaxed just a tad bit,” said Durant. “Being up 20 and having a good third quarter, it’s natural to relax. But as a great team you have to be dominant. I think this was a great lesson for us to keep the foot on the gas. But in that fourth quarter, I think we did a good job of not panicking when they cut it to six or seven and we made the right plays throughout the fourth. We definitely want to finish games better, especially start fourth quarters better if we are up 20.”