“The benefit of playing these two games against two other great teams is that it forces you to be better,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “It tests you to see where you’re at, it sets the bar, and now you know what you have to strive for.”
The game began after a moment of silence for former Celtics player and coach KC Jones, who died earlier Friday.
Durant scored 16 points in the third quarter, when the Nets outscored Boston 35-23 to turn a three-point deficit into an 86-77 lead. He scored nine straight Brooklyn points at the beginning of the third when the Nets took the lead for good.
In Denver, Kawhi Leonard had 21 points before taking an elbow to the face in the fourth quarter as his Los Angeles Clippers beat the Nuggets 121-108.
The Clippers led by 11 with 6:11 left when Serge Ibaka went up for a rebound and caught the side of his teammate’s face with his right elbow. Leonard lay bleeding on the court before walking to the locker room.
Leonard was ruled out shortly thereafter, but the Clippers, led by Paul George’s 23 points, didn’t need him to close out a Nuggets team that upset them in the second round of the Western Conference semi-finals last season.
Nikola Jokic finished with 24 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for Denver, which have dropped its first two games of the season. Jamal Murray added 23 points, 13 coming in the fourth period.
In Los Angeles, Anthony Davis scored 28 points and Lebron James contributed 22 during the Lakers’ 138-115 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
Montrezl Harrell scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half, and Dennis Schroder had 18 points and six assists in a second strong game for both new additions to the champs. Los Angeles outrebounded Dallas 53-27 and closed out its first win of the season with a dominant fourth quarter.
Luka Doncic had 27 points and seven assists in his first starring role in the NBA’s showcase Christmas evening game for Dallas. Josh Richardson and Trey Burke had 17 points apiece as the Mavs started 0-2 with a late fade.
In Miami, Duncan Robinson made seven three-pointers and scored 23 points, helping the Heat beat the New Orleans Pelicans 111-98.
Goran Dragic scored 18 points, Bam Adebayo had 17 and Avery Bradley finished with 12 for Miami which lost Jimmy Butler at half-time with right ankle stiffness.
Zion Williamson had 32 points and 14 rebounds in 38 minutes for New Orleans — the rebounds and minutes both being career highs. Brandon Ingram finished with 28 points.
Meanwhile, Khris Middleton scored 31 points and the Milwaukee Bucks routed the Golden State Warriors 138-99.
Middleton went 10-of-15 overall and 6-for-8 from three-point range, leading a strong performance from deep for his team. He has totaled 58 points in his first two games of the season.
The Warriors have been outscored by 65 points in their first two games, the second-highest total in NBA history through two games behind the 1987-88 Clippers (71), after losing 125-99 at Brooklyn in their season opener.
Stephen Curry scored 19 points for Golden State and rookie James Wiseman had 18.