Kyrie Irving scored 40 points as the red-hot Brooklyn Nets picked up where they left off before the All-Star break by beating the Boston Celtics 121-109 on Thursday in New York.
With Kevin Durant sitting out his 10th straight game with an injury and James Harden struggling early with turnovers, Irving seized control of the game in the second quarter in front of a pandemic-limited crowd of 1,300 at Barclays Center arena.
The former Celtic Irving has made a point this season of raising his level of play against Boston. Irving, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, also exploded for 37 points against his former teammates on Christmas Day.
The Nets kicked off the second half of the season by scoring at least 120 points for the 23rd time this season. It was also the second straight time.
They also scored 120 points in their final game before the break.
Harden flirted with a triple double, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Landry Shamat scored 18 points and had nine three pointers for the Nets, who made a total of 19 threes.
It was the 24th time the Nets have made at least 15 threes in a game.
Harden made all nine of his shots from the free-throw line, but finished with seven turnovers.
Jayson Tatum scored 31 points, guard Marcus Smith delivered 19 and Germany’s Daniel Theis finished with 17 points and eight rebounds for Boston, who had their four-game winning streak stopped.
Boston jumped out to an early lead as Harden turned the ball over several times. With Harden on the bench, Irving elevated his game, scoring 18 points in the first half as the Nets led by three, 58-55, at halftime.
It was Tatum’s turn to get hot in the third quarter as Boston regained the lead. But the Nets recovered in the fourth and led 95-90 with 9:33 left.
Irving made a clutch three pointer with two minutes remaining to make it 116-109 and then seconds later sank two free throws to put the game out of reach.
Elsewhere, All-Star Game MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to power the Milwaukee Bucks to a 134-101 rout of the New York Knicks in Milwaukee.
Antetokounmpo made eight of 12 shots from the field and went seven of seven from the free-throw line.