Nets forward Kevin Durant looks on against the Philadelphia 76ers...

Nets forward Kevin Durant looks on against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second half of an NBA basketball game at Barclays Center on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Nets got Kevin Durant out of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. But it didn’t matter. Durant scored 33 points, but it wasn’t enough to save the Nets from a 110-102 loss to the 76ers on Thursday night at Barclays Center.

The loss destroyed all the good vibes that came from the Nets’ road sweep in Los Angeles against the Lakers and Clippers over the holiday weekend. They still are first in the Eastern Conference with a 23-10 record, but now they have to regroup against the Clippers on Saturday at home.

"We weren’t very sharp tonight," Nets coach Steve Nash said. "Obviously, the shot discrepancy, 100 to 81 shots at the basket. We had 17 turnovers, 14 in the first half. We had plenty of opportunities when we were up five to get it to eight, 10, 12 and turned it over: three-ball, foul, stuff like that. Just weren’t sharp. We didn’t play our best and we’ve got a lot of things to clean up, but it happens and we’ll just keep improving."

Given the fact that Durant returned from health and safety protocols to join Harden, who previously came out of health and safety protocols, it was a wasted opportunity against the Nets’ top rival in their division.

Harden also scored 33 points and recorded another triple-double with 14 rebounds and 10 assists. LaMarcus Aldridge had 12 points and nine rebounds, and Nic Claxton had 10 points and eight rebounds. But the Nets’ bench produced a mere nine points, which was a horrible showing.

Joel Embiid led the 76ers with 34 points, Tyrese Maxey added 25, Seth Curry had 17 and Andre Drummond had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

There was a time when it appeared the Nets were in control. Durant gave the Nets a 93-92 lead when he hit a jumper with 4:53 left to play. Harden tied the game again at 95 with a layup at the 4:04 mark. Another Harden basket tied the game at 97 with 3:24 left to play.

But Embiid made a three-point play that gave the 76ers a 100-97 lead that they never lost. Three-pointers by Maxey and Curry gave the 76ers a 106-99 lead with 1:52 to go, and that was the game.

Harden made two foul shots with 40.7 seconds left to bring the Nets within six, but that was as close as they got in the final minute.

Asked about Durant, Nash said, "Great. He missed some shots that we’re used to him making, but as the game went on, he shot the ball very well. I thought overall that’s pretty impressive after a break to play the way he did, but I think for him, it’s going to still take a couple games to get back to his level. But having said that, this was pretty impressive. Just as a team too many mistakes here and there that kind of hampered some good performances."

The Nets still have Durant and Harden and they still are first in the Eastern Conference. But they bombed against the 76ers, who are their top rival in the Atlantic Division. Not a good night, but the season goes on.

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