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Kevin Durant leads Nets with 30 points to hold off Timberwolves

Nets forward Kevin Durant is defended by Minnesota

Nets forward Kevin Durant is defended by Minnesota Timberwolves guard Leandro Bolmaro and guard D'Angelo Russell in the first half of an NBA basketball game at Barclays Center on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Nets survived a scare from a mediocre Timberwolves team without injured star Karl-Anthony Towns and managed to spoil whatever notions returning former Nets star D’Angelo Russell had of revenge by hanging on for a 110-105 victory Friday night at Barclays Center. It was their sixth win in the past seven games.

The Nets held a one-point lead entering the final quarter and seemed content to trade baskets as the period opened with five quick lead changes. In the middle of the quarter, Kevin Durant scored seven straight Nets points to keep it close until Patty Mills hit a go-ahead three for a 103-101 lead with 4:10 left to play.

The Nets finally put it out of reach when Durant his a 15-foot jumper with 11.1 seconds left for a 110-105 margin. Russell missed a chippie just before the buzzer.

"Obviously, it wasn’t a masterpiece," Nets coach Steve Nash said. "We struggled, they foul a lot. They mucked off some of our non-shooters and junked up the game and did a really good job of it. We struggled to get off the ball quickly, make quick decisions, and it fed into their game plan. But in the end, it was a very easy game to lose the way it was going, and we found a way to win."

Durant led a balanced attack by the Nets (16-6) with 30 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, James Harden totaled 20 points and nine assists, and Patty Mills added 23 points. But the Nets were a frigid 26.1% from three-point range (6-for-23) even though they shots 46.8% overall.

Russell topped the Timberwolves (11-12) with 21 points despite shooting 6-for-22. He added 11 assists, Naz Reid had 19 points, Anthony Edwards scored 19, and Jarred Vanderbilt had 15 rebounds.

Towns suffered a tailbone contusion from a bad fall Wednesday night in Washington and was listed as questionable. After he warmed up, the decision was made to hold him out. Although he and Edwards are the top two scorers for the Timberwolves, most of the attention was focused on the return of former Nets All-Star Russell, who left for Golden State two years ago as part of a sign-and-trade for Durant.

Russell was coming off a poor shooting night in Washington and it continued, although the Timberwolves led by as many as 11 points in the opening quarter. The third quarter began with the teams trading baskets, scoring on 13 of the first 15 possessions before the Nets pushed their lead to seven points. But an 8-2 Minnesota surge at the end of a listless third period cut their deficit to 86-85.

"I felt like we got up six, seven points, and they always hit a timely three," Durant said. "Taurean Prince hit one with the shot clock running down with a contest and D’Angelo hit one with a contest. They didn’t hit a lot of threes, but it was just timely it felt like. Yeah, we might have traded baskets, but I think our defense was solid throughout the whole game."

In the fourth quarter, the Nets held the Timberwolves to just 20 points and finished the game on an 11-4 run during which the T-Wolves made just 1 of 12 field-goal attempts.

Describing their defensive effort at the end, Durant said, "As the game went on, we started to understand where help was coming from, [we needed to] force guys. Like I said earlier, they played more free without their best player, those shots were falling in the first quarter. After that, you start to see they were inconsistent with their shots. We weathered the storm and were able to get a solid win and I look forward to tomorrow."

The Eastern Conference-leading Nets play host the Bulls in the second game of a back-to-back. Chicago is second in the conference.

New York Sports