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Brooklyn Nets need furious comeback vs. Sixers to log first win

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PHILADELPHIA — After the Brooklyn Nets needed to score 16 of the final 17 points and a triple-double from Kevin Durant to win their first game of the season, coach Steve Nash said he loved the competitiveness he saw but also set early expectations for his title contender.

“It’s not going to be pretty for a little while here,” Nash said after the Nets’ come-from-behind 114-109 win that spoiled the Sixers’ home opener. “We just got to continue to fight, play for each other and figure out ways to compete and stay engaged while we figure out rotations and combinations and what we are all about.”

Nash also said that his two stars, Durant and James Harden, aren’t just learning all the new pieces on the Brooklyn roster but also are figuring out how to play without Kyrie Irving. Nash has been preaching patience as he experiments with big and small lineups and different rotations. Harden, though, said he and Durant will figure out how to lead the team while Irving remains absent.

“We’re the best at what we do, we’ll figure it out,” Harden said. “Me personally, I’ve been through a lot where I had different teammates, different lineups and playing small ball so I’m used to trying to figure it out and just go with the flow and making it work. We have a really good team and we’ll figure it out.

“Kevin is the same way and one of the best to ever touch a basketball. So we just got to go out there and do what we do and things will work out.”

After the Nets were blown out, 127-104, by the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on the road in the season opener, Brooklyn got off to another slow start that saw them fall behind 20-6 to a Philadelphia team dealing with its own drama surrounding star point guard Ben Simmons.

Durant, though, had his second career triple-double as a Net by the end of the third quarter before finishing with 29 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists. Down 108-98 with 5:33 remaining, he found LaMarcus Aldridge for a basket before drilling a 16-foot pull-up jumper.

Aldridge was terrific for the Nets, scoring nine of his 23 points in the final 5:16. The big man, who retired last April due to heart concerns before being medically cleared to return, shot 10-for-12 and scored 23 points. New Net Patty Mills continued to take advantage of Irving’s absence with 11 points off the bench. Mills has made his first 10 3-point shots of the regular season.

“I think they are excited for their new teammates,” Nash said of Durant and Harden, who had 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. “But it takes time to find that rhythm and combinations. And also we lost a big piece [Irving]. “It is not just the new pieces, it’s the void that we are used to playing with. It is, it is a lot for us to take on at this moment in time. But hopefully in the weeks coming, we start to clear some of the debris so to speak and figure out how we can best play together.”

Durant said each game will present a new challenge for him and Harden. In Philadelphia, Durant felt the need to score early before getting into the paint and making plays for teammates due to Philadelphia’s defensive coverage.

“We wasn’t planning on having to do this, but you know, it’s good for us to make adjustments,” Durant said of playing without Irving. “It’s good for guys who wasn’t expecting to play bigger roles to step into those roles and see who we are. This is the situation we were in, and I think a lot of guys have taken advantage of it.

“For James and myself, it feels like each game may be different and we may have to do different things than we thought coming into the season. But it’s all good. It’s always gonna help us get better.”

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Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic has ‘sore’ neck after hard fall, hopeful he’ll play Sunday

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DALLAS — Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic said his neck was “pretty sore” due to a hard fall after a drive to the basket during Thursday’s 109-101 loss to the Phoenix Suns, but he was optimistic that he would not miss any time due to the injury.

Doncic landed on his back after absorbing contact from Suns center Bismack Biyombo on a drive to the basket with 1:02 remaining in the third quarter. During the ensuing timeout, Doncic was hunched over on the bench while grabbing the back of his neck. After consulting with the Mavs’ athletic training staff, Doncic applied a heat pack to his neck before checking back in with 7:25 remaining and playing the rest of the game.

“It’s my neck. It’s the spine,” said Doncic, who had 28 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and eight turnovers in the loss. “When I fall down, I hit my back. It’s pretty sore right now.”

Doncic said he would get “a lot of massages and steam room” over the next few days to prepare for Sunday’s home game against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Doncic played despite a neck strain during last season’s playoffs, but it affected his performance during Dallas’ Game 4 loss to the LA Clippers, when he had series lows of 19 points, six rebounds and six assists in a lopsided loss. As was the case with that injury, Doncic said the range of motion in his neck was limited, and that looking to either side was difficult.

“I think it’s a little worse because it’s the spine,” Doncic said. “But it’ll be OK in a couple days.”

The loss to the Suns, who have the NBA’s best record at 35-9, was only the Mavs’ second in the last 12 games.

The Suns outscored the Mavs 35-19 in the fourth quarter as Phoenix put the finishing touches on a 5-0 road trip. Doncic, who played 42 minutes in the previous night’s win over the Toronto Raptors, wasn’t as aggressive as usual in the fourth quarter, when he had four points on 2-of-3 shooting and no assists. Phoenix point guard Chris Paul dominated the frame, scoring 10 points and controlling the tempo while playing the whole quarter.

Phoenix is 15-3 in games defined as clutch — the score being within five points in the final five minutes — and has outscored opponents by 58 points in 62 minutes in those situations.

“We all trust each other,” said Devin Booker, who led the Suns with 28 points. “We had a lot of learning curves last year, but having that time and that experience together, I know put us in a situation where we never hit the panic button. We never get flustered or out of whack. We just stick with what we do, and we perform well down the stretch.”

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Follow live: Warriors, Pacers going down to the wire

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New Orleans Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram misses 4th quarter vs. New York Knicks with ankle injury

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New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram did not play in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s 102-91 win over the New York Knicks because of a sprained right ankle.

Pelicans head coach Willie Green told reporters after the game that Ingram could not have played in the final 12 minutes and the team will further evaluate him when they get back to New Orleans.

There are no plans to do an MRI on Ingram at the moment and they’ll see how his ankle feels when they return home before taking any further steps, sources told ESPN. Cameras showed Ingram seated on the bench in the fourth quarter without a shoe on his right foot.

He injured the ankle with 36.7 seconds left in the third quarter while defending a shot by Knicks guard Quentin Grimes. Ingram was defending the long two-point attempt by Grimes and when Grimes landed, his knees knuckled and he crashed into Ingram’s leg. Ingram’s ankle bent awkwardly as both players hit the ground.

Ingram finished the quarter and got off a fadeaway jumper before sitting out the rest of the game.

New Orleans catches a break with three consecutive days off before they return to the court on Monday night against the Indiana Pacers. They’ll follow that up with a back-to-back at Philadelphia before two more days off and then a home back-to-back against Denver and Boston next Friday and Saturday.

Ingram has missed nine games this season and the Pelicans are 1-8 in those contests with the lone win coming against Cleveland on Dec. 28, a game in which the Pelicans trailed by as many as 23 points. It was the second-largest comeback in Pelicans’ history.

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