For the first time all season, the Brooklyn Nets own a winning record, and they can attribute it to Kevin Durant's prolific scoring and some improved defensive showings.
With a matchup against the NBA-best Boston Celtics looming, the Nets will attempt to push their home winning streak to six games Friday night when they host the Toronto Raptors.
Brooklyn is 12-11 after earning a 113-107 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday to improve to 3-0 on its season-long seven-game homestand.
Similar to Brooklyn's wins over Portland and Orlando to start the home stretch, Durant came up big against Washington, delivering 39 points. That marked his fourth straight game with at least 30 points.
"Something to celebrate," Kyrie Irving said of Brooklyn going over .500. "Something definitely not to take for granted. A lot of hard work to get to this point."
The Nets are 5-7 when Durant scores at least 30, but half of those games occurred during the turbulent opening weeks when the Nets lost six of their first eight games. Since then, the Nets are 10-5 and allowing 106.3 points in that span.
Since being held to 12 points in Brooklyn's 112-98 win at Toronto on Nov. 23, Durant is averaging 37.8 points on 62.1 percent shooting from the field. Durant also has four straight games of 30 points, at least five assists and five rebounds.
"I'm just playing carefree basketball," Durant said. "I think that's the best way to play. Sometimes when you want to win too much, you get in your own way. You distract yourself a bit. You're worried about the results too much."
Durant also is getting some help of late. Irving added 15 of his 27 in the fourth quarter Wednesday and is averaging 23.5 points in his past six. Joe Harris filled some of the minutes in place of Ben Simmons (left calf) by adding 14 after scoring 17 Monday, and T.J. Warren is expected to make his season debut after missing nearly two years with foot injuries. He last played on Dec. 29, 2020.
Toronto heads to Brooklyn attempting to avoid hitting .500 for the sixth time this season, and the Raptors have dropped eight of their first 11 road games, including Wednesday's 126-108 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Toronto allowed 52.3 percent from the field and dropped to 2-9 this season when allowing opponents to shoot at least 50 percent.
Toronto trailed by 31 and allowed 74 points in the opening half -- a sharp contrast to the 100 points and 88 points given up in consecutive home wins over the Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively.
"It was disappointing we didn't play very good defense all night long, really," Toronto coach Nick Nurse said.
Toronto tried its 12th different starting lineup when Thaddeus Young joined Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby in the first five. Gary Trent Jr. led the Raptors with 35 points off the bench and Siakam added 23 but Barnes and VanVleet struggled.
VanVleet was held to two points on 1-of-8 shooting before being ejected and is shooting 31.5 percent over his past six games. After not starting Monday against Cleveland, Barnes was held to four points and has been held under 10 points in four of his past nine games and is shooting 39.1 percent over his past 12.
In addition to last week's win in Toronto, the Nets earned a 109-105 victory in Brooklyn on Oct. 21 when they withstood Siakam's triple-double (37 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists).
--Field Level Media