PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Anfernee Simons had 23 points and 11 assists, and the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers took advantage of James Harden’s absence for a 114-108 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night.
Harden was out with a hyperextended left knee. Kyrie Irving started in 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 figures.
Monday’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 23 but was postponed because of COVID-19 issues. In making up the game, both teams were playing the second of back-to-backs.
Portland led 87-81 going into the final quarter and Dennis Smith Jr.’s dunk pushed it to 96-89 with 8:39 left.
Covington’s 3-pointer put Portland up 107-100 with 2:15 to go but the Nets closed within 110-105 down the stretch. Ben McLemore hit a 3-pointer with 31.9 second left to all but seal it for Portland. McLemore finished with 20 points and five 3s.
Nets coach Steve Nash said the team was being cautious with Harden in a dense stretch of games and that Harden should be available when the on Wednesday at Chicago.
Harden had 26 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds in Brooklyn’s 121-119 overtime victory at home over San Antonio on Sunday. His late scratch Monday marked the fifth game that he has missed this season.
Irving has refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine and is barred from playing in New York due to the city’s vaccine mandate, but he has resumed playing on the road. For his first game, which was last week at Indiana, he finished with 22 points in nearly 32 minutes.
The Blazers were again without Damian Lillard, out with lower abdominal tendinopathy, and backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, who has been out for 14 games after a collapsed lung. Fellow starters Norman Powell (COVID-19 protocols) and Larry Nance Jr. (right knee) were also out for Portland.
Despite the absences, Portland got off to a good start, taking a 33-26 lead into the second quarter after Smith’s pullup jumper. Irving had eight points in nine minutes to start the game, but collected a pair of fouls.
The Nets closed the gap in the second quarter and went up 51-47 on Irving’s 3-pointer. Brooklyn led 62-55 at the break, paced by Durant with 20 points.
Durant has 19 straight games with 20 or more points, the second-longest streak of 20-point games in Nets history.
The Blazers pulled in front 77-76 on Robert Covington’s 3-pointer in the third quarter.
The Nets arrived in Portland late Sunday after wrapping up the win over the Spurs and flying across the country. Then there’s another long flight ahead for Wednesday night’s game at the Bulls. And on Thursday, they’re back at home against the Thunder.
The Nets are playing four games in five days, and five games in the next seven days.
“I think it’s really important for us to take day-by-day right now. I know that’s a cliche, but I think that is the smartest way to approach this,” Nash said.
Nets: Joining Harden on the Nets’ injury report was former Blazer LaMarcus Aldridge, who has a sore right foot and also missed the game against the Spurs. … The Nets lead the league with a 15-3 road record.
Trail Blazers: Portland was coming off a 103-88 victory at home over Sacramento on Sunday night. … Simons made a seemingly impossible layup to end the first half, going up against two defenders and throwing the ball up behind his back.
Nets: Visit Chicago on Wednesday.
Trail Blazers: Kick off a six-game road trip at Denver on Wednesday.
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