CLEVELAND (AP) — Kevin Durant returned to Brooklyn’s lineup and scored 27 points, James Harden added 14 points and a season-high 14 assists, and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-112 on Monday night.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for the Nets, who won for the sixth time in seven games.
Durant was back after missing one game with a sprained right shoulder. With the Nets down 105-102, the All-Star forward made a tough baseline jumper and layup to put Brooklyn back in front.
Cleveland’s Ricky Rubio hit a 3-pointer to pull the Cavs within one, but Aldridge scored on a putback when the Cavs failed to box out. Durant then grabbed a rebound off a Cleveland miss before firing a pass to an unguarded James Johnson for a layup to make it 113-108.
Durant dropped four free throws in the last 13.8 seconds left to ice it.
Darius Garland scored 24 and Jared Allen had 20 points and 15 rebounds. Lauri Markkanen added 22 points in his first game since Nov. 1 for the still short-handed Cavs, who had chances down the stretch but missed some shots and made critical mistakes.
Cleveland has lost four straight.
Durant (24,367) moved within one point of tying Allen Iverson (24,368) for 25th on the career scoring list.
Cam Thomas made a 3-pointer and had a three-point play to fuel a 13-2 run by the Nets over the final 2:32 of the third as Brooklyn, which trailed for much of the game, took an 84-82 lead into the last 12 minutes.
The Cavs were extremely short-handed, missing four starters, when they visited Brooklyn and lost 109-99 last week. They didn’t have Allen or Markkanen, who returned after missing nine games following a positive COVID-19 test and being placed in league health protocols.
Nets coach Steve Nash has been impressed with the Cavs, calling them a “very willing, unselfish group.” He expected a tough game and got one.
Cleveland was the more aggressive, more focused team in the first half. The Cavs outrebounded the Nets 30-14 while building an 11-point halftime lead.
Nets: F Joe Harris (left ankle sprain), F Bruce Brown (left hamstring tightness), Nic Claxton (illness) and G Kyrie Irving (not with team) were inactive. Harris missed his fourth straight game. … Brooklyn leads the NBA with a .380 3-point percentage. Two-time league leader Harris is shooting .466. … Harden and Irving share the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse scoring record of 55 points in a game.
Cavaliers: Cleveland attempted 16 free throws in the second quarter after not trying one in the first. … Fast-starting rookie F Evan Mobley (right elbow) missed his third game in a row. He won’t be back until December. The No. 3 overall pick was averaging 14.6 points and 8.0 rebounds before getting hurt. … F Cedi Osman (lower back spasms) sat out his second game in a row, while F Lamar Stevens (right ankle sprain) last played on Nov. 12.
Nets: Visit Boston on Wednesday.
Cavaliers: Host the red-hot Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.