NBA: Durant hits 53 as Nets edge Knicks, wants vax rule change
WASHINGTON – Kevin Durant erupted for 53 points to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 110-107 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday under the eye of teammate Kyrie Irving — who couldn’t play but attended as a spectator.
New York City’s private sector COVID-19 vaccine mandates mean Irving still can’t play NBA games in New York, at either the Nets’ Barclays Center or the Knicks’ Madison Square Garden.
But relaxed rules for the unvaccinated in public spaces meant he could attend the game as a fan — an anomaly that prompted frustrated comment from NBA rival LeBron James.
“It literally makes ABSOLUTELY ZERO SENSE!!!” James tweeted as pictures of Irving courtside made the social media rounds. “They say if common sense was common then we’d all have it. Ain’t that the truth.”
“It’s ridiculous,” Durant said after the game. “I don’t understand it at all. There’s a few people in our arena that’s unvaxxed, right? They lifted all of that in our arena, right? So I don’t get it.
“It just didn’t make any sense. We got a guy who can come in the building. Are they fearing our safety? I don’t get it. We’re all confused. Pretty much everybody in the world is confused at this point. Early on in the season people didn’t understand what was going on, but now it just looks stupid.”
Without Irving, who so far this season has been limited to playing away games, and with new acquisition Ben Simmons yet to make his Nets debut, it was again up to Durant to carry Brooklyn.
Despite defensive pressure from the Knicks, Durant was one shy of his career-high scoring night with six rebounds and nine assists as Brooklyn won a sixth consecutive meeting over New York.
Durant drilled a 3-pointer with 56.3 seconds remaining that pulled Irving out of his seat and put the Nets up for good at 106-103.
“Kevin was unbelievable,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “Carried us. Made a lot of big plays. Rebounds, assists, the whole deal. He was Kevin Durant on full display.”
Durant posted the eighth 50-plus point game of his career and his second this season.
Only two other players, Irving and James, have reached the half-century mark in at least two games this season.
The Nets hope changes in regulations will allow Irving to play home games once the playoffs start on April 16.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver is among those who say banning Irving while unvaccinated visiting players can take the court in New York “doesn’t quite make sense.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams removed the public sector vaccine and mask mandates in February so that the unvaccinated were allowed in public spaces such as bars and venues like the Barclays Center.
But a private sector mandate requiring employees of New York-based businesses to be vaccinated remains in place, and no exception will be made for Irving, Adams saying it would “send the wrong message.”
“It just feels like somebody’s trying to make a statement or a point to flex their authority,” Durant said. “Everybody out here is looking for attention and that’s what I feel like the mayor wants right now, is some attention. But he’ll figure it out soon — he better.
“Eric, you got to figure something out man, because it’s looking crazy… he can come to the game, but not play? Come on, man.”
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