The Brooklyn Nets have bounced back from their COVID-19 nightmare, courtesy of a masterclass from Aussie superstar Patty Mills.
A COVID-19 outbreak depleted the Nets’ stocks last week, forcing the cancellation of the side’s three games before the Christmas Day clash with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The NBA’s COVID-19 protocols kept Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joe Harris, Kessler Edwards, Cam Thomas and more out of the road clash against the Lakers, but the Nets nevertheless took a four-point lead into halftime.
With prolific forward Durant out, Mills and fellow guard James Harden went to work, combining for 42 of the Nets’ 66 first-half points.
By the third quarter, Mills had registered his 10th 20-point game for the season — more than any other individual season in his career. He finished with more points than in any other game in his first season with the Brooklyn Nets (34).
True to form, Mills was also more damaging from deep than any of his teammates,sinking eight of his 13 attempts from beyond the arc.
But Lakers superstar LeBron James, playing his 15th consecutive Christmas Day game, appointed himself as the Nets’ Grinch.
He surpassed the late Kobe Bryant as the NBA’s all-time scorer in Christmas Day fixtures and finished the first half with 22 points.
Too many others did too little for the Lakers, though.
Off the back of another Mills three-pointer in the dying seconds of the third quarter, the Nets opened up a game-high 18-point lead.
Mills backed it up with an incisive pass to DeAndre’ Bembry just inside the key seconds later to make it 20 points at the final change.
The Lakers clawed back into the contest in the final quarter, notching 15 unanswered points while Mills enjoyed a well-earned break.
When he came back on, Mills broke the Nets’ scoring drought, knocking down yet another three-pointer.
The game remained an arm-wrestle from there, but the undermanned Nets held on to consolidate their spot atop the Eastern Conference ladder and hand the Lakers their fifth consecutive defeat, 122-115.
The result could’ve been vastly different if not for Mills, though.
“He has been the unsung hero for Brooklyn not only here tonight, but all season,” said ABC’s Mike Breen in commentary.
“He’s playing his best basketball.”