INDIANAPOLIS: Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash realizes sometimes there is 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.
It was his third game of 30 points or more since his return, which was also interrupted for three games by 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.
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 February 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.
Rockets 143, Bucks 136
In Houston, Kevin Porter Jr. scored a career-high 50 points and the NBA-worst Houston Rockets beat the Milwaukee Bucks after Giannis Antetokounmpo left less than a minute into the game with an apparent ankle injury.
Houston snapped a five-game losing streak on the back of a dazzling performance from Porter, who scored 32 points in the second half and 17 in the fourth quarter. His previous career best was 30 points as a rookie with Cleveland last season.
Antetokounmpo played just 46 seconds. On a driving layup, he appeared to step on the foot of Kelly Olynyk, rolling what was already an injured ankle. He limped to the locker room and spent a few minutes there before returning to the bench, where he sat for the rest of the game.
Antetokounmpo entered the game listed as probable with a right ankle sprain.
Houston trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half but surged in the second half on hot shooting from three-point range. Houston made 25 of 46 three-pointers, good for a season-high 54.3 percent.
Porter also had 11 assists. Christian Wood had 31 points and nine rebounds and Kelly Olynyk added 24 points and 13 rebounds.
Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton had 33 points and eight assists and Jrue Holiday had 29 points and 10 assists. Bryn Forbes scored a career-high 30 points off the bench, including 18 in the first half.
Milwaukee led 73-65 at halftime after Houston closed out the half on a 20-4 run.
The Rockets opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run to take their first lead. They entered the fourth quarter ahead 104-98.