Nets handle 76ers with Kyrie Irving out for personal reasons

The Nets didn’t have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving or Spencer Dinwiddie — but they had enough to lead almost wire-to-wire in a 122-109 victory Thursday night over the 76ers, the top team in the Eastern Conference.

“Lots of satisfaction,” coach Steve Nash said. “They again — for the second [game] in a row — played incredibly hard, stuck together, stuck to the game plan. We didn’t give up a bunch of offensive rebounds and didn’t turn the ball over. So you add it all up and it was a great performance.”

It was an impressive results for the Nets (5-4), especially playing with only 11 healthy players.

Caris LeVert replaced Irving and had 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. He dominated the point-guard matchup against Ben Simmons, holding the Sixers star to 11 points (on 4 of 13 shooting) and just two assists.

Joe Harris picked up the offensive slack, pouring in a season-high 28 points — just two short of his career-best — on 6 of 9 shooting from 3-point range.

“Joe’s a stud,” Nash said. “He makes shots, he makes plays. He battles, physically, defends, rebounds, he does a bit of everything.He’s not just a shooter. He makes other plays and makes his teammates better because of his energy effort and shotmaking.”

This was a comprehensive effort, especially from the Nets’ much-maligned defense. They amassed a staggering 30-7 edge in points off turnovers, forcing Philadelphia into miscues while playing a clean game themselves.

Even 76ers star Joel Embiid was held on check, coming in averaging 25.3 points but held to 20, most of them in garbage time. He had bullied Jarrett Allen in the first-round 2018-19 playoff series (a Nets loss), but on Thursday the young center played Embiid to a standstill, with 15 points and 11 rebounds, in what is fast becoming a rivalry between the teams.

“I think honestly, there’s some little fire going on up there,” Allen said. “Even looking at the fans, I feel like they think the same thing, too. We play them like eight times a year, so obviously we’re gonna start trying to go back and forth at each other. But it’s just all good competition. We love going at each otherand Jared Dudley really sparked it all.“In terms of playing against Joel, I like it. It’s a real challenge for me, arguably one of the top three big men in the league if not the best. … I want to go out there, prove my worth. Come to this game and I held my ground.”

Caris LeVert
Caris LeVert dunks the ball for the Nets.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

The Nets jumped ahead right out of the gate.

Jeff Green — in for Durant at power forward —had 14 points, including a corner 3 to spot the Nets to a quick 10-2 lead. They promptly padded that to 12. Allen tipped in a Prince miss to make it 17-5, and the Nets’ lead reached 20-8 after LeVert’s three-point play with 5:27 left in the first quarter.

The Nets did allow an extended 24-8 run that spanned the first and second quarters, briefly falling behind by four. But they quickly seized the momentum right back.

The Nets built the cushion back up to 12 again on another corner 3-pointer by Green, making it 59-47.

Allen’s block led to a Harris 3-pointer on the other end for a 65-49 cushion. The Nets’ lead eventually reached as high as 18 in the third quarter, and they cruised.

The 76ers remained in New York to quarantine and conduct contact tracing after learning during the game of a positive coronavirus test for one of their players. The Nets traveled to Memphis, Tenn., for their game Friday night.

According to ESPN, the 76ers’ Seth Curry tested positive for COVID-19.

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