BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Pascal Siakam had a season-high 33 points plus 11 rebounds to lift the Toronto Raptors 123-117 over the star-studded Brooklyn Nets on Friday, a thrilling game clouded by a COVID-19 incident.
Kyle Lowry added 30 points in the Raptors' (10-12) third consecutive victory. Norman Powell added 18 points, while Chris Boucher chipped in with 17.
The bizarre game saw Nets star Kevin Durant enter the game late due to COVID-19 contact tracing, then ushered out of the game in the third quarter due to health protocols -- his 19 minutes on the floor raising huge questions about potential exposure.
Joe Harris topped the Nets (14-10) with 19 points, while James Harden had 17, and Kyrie Irving and Jeff Green finished with 15 apiece.
The Raptors pounced on the Nets' lackluster defence, leaving from the opening whistle and building a 17-point advantage by early in the second quarter.
Durant's return helped the Nets bounce back. Their first lead of the night came on a Harris three-pointer a couple of minutes into the third quarter. The Raptors clutched a 92-90 lead to start the fourth.
The Nets went ahead by four points in a tight fourth quarter before back-to-back three-pointers from Lowry had the Raptors up by four points with 3:11 to play. Two nights after scoring a franchise-high 54 points, Fred VanVleet's first made three on Friday came with 1:46 to play and put Toronto up by six points.
Siakam connected on a layup on Toronto's next possession, and it was all but game over.
Durant was playing the Raptors for the first time since rupturing his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA finals, but played just 19 minutes. He entered the game eight minutes late due to contact tracing, then was instructed to leave due to health protocols in the third quarter. Canadian and Nets rookie head coach Steve Nash appeared to deliver Durant the news.
He'd already missed three games this season related to the health and safety protocols. He tested positive for the virus in March while he was recovering from his Achilles surgery. Durant finished with eight points. He had scored at least 20 points in all of his 17 games thus far, the longest streak to begin a season in his career.
Durant had posted "FREE ME" on his Twitter page before the game was over.
The Raptors got off to a hot start, putting 11 points on the Nets on a VanVleet finger roll late in the first quarter. The Raptors capitalized on Brooklyn's sloppiness -- Toronto scored 11 points off Nets turnovers -- and led 34-23 to start the second.
DeAndre Bembry put a punctuation mark on a Raptors 7-0 run that had Toronto up by 17 points early in the second. But the Nets found their form and sliced the Raptors' advantage to 67-63 at halftime.
The Raptors continue their six-game road trip on Saturday at Atlanta.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2021.
The Canadian Press