INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash realizes that sometimes there’s no need to overthink situations, especially when working with great players such as Kevin Durant.
Nash let Durant do his thing on Thursday night, and the superstar responded with a season-high 42 points as the Nets glided to a 130-113 victory over the depleted Indiana Pacers.
“What can I say? I have the luxury of coaching Kevin Durant,” Nash said. “You stick him in the game and good things happen.”
Durant scored 22 points in the third quarter as the Nets stretched their lead to 21 points.
The All-Star forward took particular pleasure in drawing the attention of extra defenders, which opened up the offense for teammates. Durant finished with 10 assists. He was plenty efficient when he took his own shots, connecting on 16 of 24 in his eighth start since being sidelined for nearly two months with a hamstring injury.
“I want to create that double team,” Durant said. “But when I have scoring opportunities, I like to take advantage as well.”
It was his third game of 30 points or more since his return, which was also interrupted for three games by a thigh injury.
“It makes it easy for me when he’s scoring points,” said Nets reserve forward Alize Johnson, who had 20 points and 21 rebounds. “It’s fun to watch.”
Johnson was drafted by the Pacers in 2018, but didn’t have a job as recently as last month.
“The energy was there from the moment I walked into the building,” Johnson said. “I was ready to go out there and prove that I belong.”
“Incredible stat line,” Nash said of Johnson. “He played with energy and brings it never night.”
Playing without Kyrie Irving and James Harden, the Nets built a double-digit lead by the second quarter and were never seriously threatened.
The Nets are 29-8 since Feb. 10, best in the league, and have clinched a playoff spot.
Caris LeVert scored 12 of his 36 points in the first quarter for the Pacers, but the Nets still led 35-28 after one behind Jeff Green’s 12 points in the period. Brooklyn’s advantage reached 66-52 by halftime.
Edmond Sumner added 16 points and Doug McDermott scored 15 for the Pacers, who lost point guard Malcolm Brogdon in the second quarter with a sore hamstring.
“It’s definitely tough,” LeVert said. “As I continue to say, this has been a weird year. We’ve just got to continue to fight. We fought hard. (But) we definitely dug ourselves a huge hole.”
The Pacers dropped to 11-19 at home. At 29-33, they’re on track for their second losing season since 2011.
Nets: Irving (groin) has missed 17 games. Harden (hamstring) last played on April 5.
Pacers: Brogdon missed all five shots and had only one point. … Already without its injured front court including All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis (back), Indiana finished with only one regular starter.
Nets: Host Portland on Friday night.
Pacers: At Oklahoma City on Saturday night.
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