Patty Mills has turned on a Christmas Day show, equalling his NBA career high with 34 points to lift the COVID-hit Brooklyn Nets to a 122-115 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Boomers captain has been the eastern conference leaders’ ever-present mainstay in recent times as they’ve struggled to put a team on court with many absent under COVID-19 protocols.
It was no different on Saturday night as he combined with fellow backcourt star James Harden to improve the Nets’ season record to 22-9 despite a 39-point game from LeBron James before his home fans.
Watched by a huge holiday television audience, Mills made eight 3-pointers from his 13 attempts and also provided seven assists.
The Nets were returning from a week-long hiatus with three games postponed and were still without superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, among others.
In his 13th NBA season, 33-year-old Mills matched his previous best individual game tally set way back in the 2011-12 season when with San Antonio.
Harden finished with 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, the last a late lob that Nic Claxton caught to score while soaring over James, who had just helped Los Angeles erase a 20-point deficit.
James’ 39 points took him past Kobe Bryant for most career points on Christmas Day, but it was not enough to stop the Lakers’ losing streak reaching five.
Earlier in Phoenix, Stephen Curry led short-handed Golden State to a 116-107 win over the Phoenix Suns in a clash of teams with the best season records.
The Warriors arrived without three of their top four scorers out under COVID protocols – Andrew Wiggins, Damion Lee and Jordan Poole.
Curry (30 points) carried most of the load, overcoming a mediocre shooting night as the Warriors (27-6) passed the Suns (26-6) for top spot in the western conference standings.
Chris Paul had 21 points and eight assists for the Suns to take up some of the slack from leading scorer Devin Booker, who was held to 13 points.
In Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from COVID-19 protocols to score 36 points as reigning champions Milwaukee snatched a 117-103 win over the Boston Celtics.
In his first game since December 12, two-time NBA MVP Antetokounmpo played 30 minutes and connected on 13 of 23 shots.
In New York, Kemba Walker became the seventh NBA player to record a triple-double on Christmas Day, as his New York Knicks beat the depleted Atlanta Hawks 101-87 for their first win on the holiday in a decade.
Walker finished with 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds and Julius Randle had 25 points and 12 rebounds.