The Brooklyn Nets shook off controversy and eased to a 128-86 NBA victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday in their first game since star guard Kyrie Irving was suspended.
Kevin Durant came up just shy of a triple-double, delivering 28 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists.
Nic Claxton added 18 points for the Nets, who notched just their third victory of a young season that has already seen plenty of turmoil.
The Nets sacked head coach Steve Nash on Tuesday and suspended Irving for at least five games on Friday — a week after he sparked a firestorm with a social media post featuring a link to a film widely condemned as anti-Semitic.
Hours after the suspension was announced Irving did apologize via Instagram, but the fallout continued Friday as Nike suspended its relationship with him and cancelled the upcoming launch of his Kyrie 8 signature shoe.
“Let’s put the joy back in basketball,” Nets owner Joe Tsai said in a tweet after the victory.
Durant certainly did all he could in that direction, shining in his hometown of Washington where the margin of defeat was the largest at home in Wizards history.
Up by 12 at halftime, the Nets roared out of the gate in the third quarter and out-scored the Wizards 59-29 in the second half.
“We just continued to move the basketball all night. Everybody touched it, everybody got to the paint and was able to generate some good offense,” Durant said.
“That’s how we want to play moving forward,” added Durant, whose highlights included a wicked crossover dribble that brought Wizards center Daniel Gaffort to the floor in the first quarter.
A change of look didn’t change the fortunes of reigning NBA champions Golden State, who fell 114-105 to the Pelicans in New Orleans for a fifth straight defeat.
Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all sat out as Warriors coach Steve Kerr made good on his assertion that he was “willing to play anybody” in a bid to turn things around.
Youngsters Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Anthony Lamb and Ty Jerome kept it close, but couldn’t get over the hump against a Pelicans team led by Brandon Ingram’s 26 points.
The Los Angeles Lakers also lost again as Lauri Markkanen scored 27 points to lead the surprising Utah Jazz to a 130-116 victory.
Jordan Clarkson added 20 points and Kelly Olynyk scored 18 for the Jazz, who improved to 7-3.
Russell Westbrook had 28 points and six assists off the bench for Los Angeles, who fell to 2-6. LeBron James, who has been battling flu and a sore left foot, had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham called the game a “huge step backward,” pointing to lackluster defense that saw the Jazz score 75 points in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks kept rolling, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 115-102 to improve to 8-0, the best start in franchise history.
Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo had his 30th career triple-double with 26 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists and Jrue Holiday scored 29 points for the Bucks, the only unbeaten team remaining.
In Dallas, Luka Doncic scored 35 points as the Mavericks held off the Toronto Raptors 111-110.
The Serbian star notched his eighth straight game and joined NBA great Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to score 30 or more in eight or more straight games to start a season.
Chamberlain did it twice — including his run of 23 games with 30 or more to start the 1962-63 season.
The New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers also pulled out narrow victories. The Knicks edged the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers 106-104, the Pacers held off the Miami Heat 101-99 and the Blazers downed the Phoenix Suns 108-106.
Despite the absence of ailing Joel Embiid and injured James Harden, the Sixers led by 12 early in the fourth quarter but they couldn’t resist the Knicks rally.
Portland’s Jerami Grant was the hero in Phoenix, where his season-high 30 points included the buzzer-beating game-winner.
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