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Durant propels Nets past Magic, Pacers stun Lakers

Brooklyn's Kevin Durant takes on Orlando's Admiral Schofield in the Nets' 109-102 NBA victory over the Magic. ©AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) - Kevin Durant scored a season-high 45 points to power Brooklyn to a 109-102 NBA victory over the Orlando Magic on Monday that kept the Nets trending in the right direction.

Durant's was just one of the 40-point performances on Monday as Devin Booker poured in 44 to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 122-117 victory over the Kings in Sacramento and Washington Wizards center Kristaps Porzingis scored a career-high 41 in a 142-127 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

While the league-leading Boston Celtics romped to victory again, leading wire-to-wire in a 140-105 win over the Charlotte Hornets, the Philadelphia 76ers erased a 16-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Hawks 104-101 in star center Joel Embiid's return from injury.

In Brooklyn, the Nets had their hands full early with the Magic, who led by 10 in the first quarter.

The Nets were up by one at half-time, and Durant erupted in the third quarter, scoring 19 points, blocking two shots and coming up with a steal in the period as the Nets seized control.

"Teammates set great screens for me, the paint was opened up because we were spaced off properly and I was able to knock some shots down," Durant said after the game.

It's been a rocky season for Brooklyn, who had just sacked coach Steve Nash in the wake of a 1-5 start when star guard Kyrie Irving was embroiled in controversy after posting a link to an anti-semitic film on social media.

Durant, who was a ruthlessly efficient 19 of 24 from the floor and also had seven rebounds and five assists, was delighted to see them put together back-to-back victories and move to 11-11 for the season.

"We've been through a lot so far," he said."Getting to .500 is a definite goal of ours the last couple of weeks -- we were right on the cusp.We just want to keep progressing."

Indiana rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give the Pacers a thrilling 116-115 victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles.

The Lakers looked headed to a third straight victory when they led 101-84 with 9:59 to play.

But the Pacers kept coming, knotting it at 113-113 on Tyrese Haliburton's driving layup with 39.8 seconds remaining.

Lakers superstar LeBron James -- who rolled his ankle in the first quarter but returned to action after a trip to the locker room -- responded with a layup of his own to make it 115-113.

But when Myles Turner missed a three-pointer on the Pacers' ensuing possession the Lakers couldn't corral the rebound.Haliburton grabbed it and fired to Nembhard who drilled the game-winner. 

"It felt good coming off my fingers, that's for sure," Nembhard told broadcaster Bally Sports Indiana in an on-court interview shortly before he was doused with water by teammates in celebration.

Celtics cruise

It was business as usual in Boston, where Jayson Tatum returned from a one-game absence to score 35 points and sat out the fourth quarter with the game well in hand.

Jaylen Brown, who had carried the load in Tatum's absence in a blowout victory over Washington on Sunday, had his turn to rest, sitting out with a sore neck.

It didn't matter at all as the Celtics knocked down 24 three-pointers and kept their offense clicking with 40 assists.

In Washington, Porzingis did it all for the Wizards, connecting on 12 of 18 shots -- including six three pointers -- to amass his 41 points in less than 31 minutes on the floor.He added three blocks and two steals.

Even worse for the Timberwolves, star Karl-Anthony Towns had to be helped off the court after crashing to the floor in the third quarter with what the team said was a right calf strain.

In Sacramento, Booker was the engine as the Suns won their fifth straight.He added eight rebounds and six steals to his 44 points as the Suns maintained a one-game lead atop the Western Conference ahead of the Denver Nuggets, who beat Houston 129-113.

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