NBA: Nets hold on to edge out Celtics and regain first place in East, Curry hot with 32 pts as Warriors chew Nuggets

Joe Harris scored a team-high 20 points for the Brooklyn Nets. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP, REUTERS) - Joe Harris scored a team-high 20 points as the short-handed Brooklyn Nets withstood Jayson Tatum's 38-point performance with a 109-104 NBA victory on Friday (April 23) in New York.

Kyrie Irving flirted with a triple double, finishing with 15 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds but it wasn't his best shooting game as the Nets had to hold off a late rally by the Celtics in front of a pandemic-limited crowd of 1,700 at Barclays Centre arena.

Even though they were missing Kevin Durant and James Harden, the Nets still managed to lead for most of the contest and regain first place in the National Basketball Association Eastern Conference standings with the victory.

They improved to 40-20 on the season for a half-game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers, who have been struggling of late.

Nets forward Durant missed his third straight game with a thigh injury which he suffered in Sunday's loss to Miami. He has played in just 24 of Brooklyn's 59 games this season and recently returned from a 23-game absence due to a hamstring injury.

Brooklyn also continues to be without star guard James Harden (hamstring), who sat out for the ninth straight game.

Jeff Green scored 19 points, Bruce Brown chipped in 15 and DeAndre Jordan grabbed 11 rebounds for Brooklyn, who controlled the tempo by outscoring the Celtics 32-3 in fast-break points.

Tatum led all scorers, rookie Payton Pritchard drained six three-pointers en route to 22 points, while Marcus Smart finished with 19 as the Celtics outscored the Nets 27-15 in the last 10 minutes of the game. Tatum bounced back offensively after going three of 17 from the field in each of his previous two games.

Boston dropped to 32-28, losing for only the third time in its past 12 games and falling one game behind the Atlanta Hawks.

Elsewhere, Bogdan Bogdanovic had 21 points and a game-high eight assists, leading the host Atlanta Hawks, who played without two of their biggest stars, to a 118-103 win over the Miami Heat.

The Hawks were without a half dozen players, including Trae Young (ankle) and Clint Capela (bruised tailbone). Young and Capela are averaging 41 points per game and Capela leads the league in rebounds.

Meanwhile, Stephen Curry led an unusually balanced Golden State attack with a game-high 32 points as the Warriors beat Denver 118-97 in San Francisco.

Kelly Oubre Jr had 23 points, Andrew Wiggins 19, Jordan Poole 15 and Mychal Mulder 14 as Golden State won despite relying mostly on just eight players, the result of having lost two in the past two days for Covid-related reasons.

Draymond Green dished out a career-high-tying 19 assists. Harassed much of the night by Green, Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was held to 19 points, six rebounds and six assists. Denver also lost Will Barton early in the game to an apparently serious hamstring injury.

In other games, Ja Morant scored 33 points and added a season-best 13 assists to help visiting Memphis move within one and a half games of Portland for seventh place in the Western Conference with a 130-128 win, while Russell Westbrook had 37 points and yet another triple-double as Washington extended their winning streak to seven by beating hosts Oklahoma City 129-109.

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