LOS ANGELES: Kevin Durant returned from injury with a bang on Monday (Tuesday in Manila), scoring 27 points as the Golden State Warriors overpowered the Philadelphia 76ers 119-108.
Durant, who missed the Warriors previous game with a bruised left hand, showed no sign of lingering after-effects to help power the Dubs to their fourth straight victory.
The Warriors, who are already assured of a place in the playoffs, improved to a league best 50-9 after rattling up their seventh win in eight games.
Klay Thompson added 21 points for Golden State while Zaza Pachulia scored a season best 16 points.
Draymond Green chipped in with 14 points, 11 rebounds and five steals.
But it was a rare off-night for Stephen Curry. The Warriors star contributed a respectable 19 points but drew a blank from three-point range, missing all 11 of his attempts.
It was only the third time in 211 games Curry has failed to connect with at least one three-pointer.
“I forgot to adjust to the thickness of the air,” Curry joked. “It happens, but you have to find other ways to impact the game.”
The Warriors eventually pulled clear against an under-powered Sixers team early in the fourth quarter, moving into a 99-87 lead.
The Sixers fought back however when Golden State’s David West was called for a flagrant after a clash with Dario Saric.
Saric drained two free throws before Nik Stauskas scored to cut the Warriors lead to 99-91 with just under eight minutes left.
But that was the cue for a sustained scoring run by the Warriors, with West making three assists in quick succession to help Golden State into a 106-92 lead with just under six minutes to go.
“I thought we played a really good game,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “We just couldn’t make a shot. But we made up for it by getting to the free-throw line.”
Sixers coach Brett Brown said even despite Curry’s off-night, the depth of the Warriors offense had been hard to counter.
“At times, we got lucky with them as a team,” Brown said. “They didn’t shoot it the way a team would normally shoot it.”
“But when you take away something, something else gets exposed. It’s hard to guard everything.”
The defeat capped a day of disappointment for the Sixers who earlier revealed that rookie center Joel Embiid—the team’s top scorer and rebounder—faced an indefinite layoff due to a knee injury.
James leads Cavs over Bucks
LeBron James shrugged off his recent illness to post 24 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers outlasted the Milwaukee Bucks 102-95.
Reigning NBA finals MVP James added 10 rebounds and six assists as Cleveland bounced back from Saturday’s defeat to Chicago to cement their place at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Cavaliers improved to 41-17 with the win as Cleveland completed a strong February which saw them compile a 9-2 record over the month.
Kyrie Irving led the scoring with 25 points and nine assists, his ninth consecutive game with at least 20 points.
Derrick Williams (14) and Kyle Korver (13) also provided useful points off the bench along with Richard Jefferson who added 11.
Malcolm Brogdon led the Bucks scoring with 20 points while Giannis Antetokounmpo had a poor night, making just four of 13 attempts.
Antetokounmpo finished with only nine points, along with seven rebounds and eight assists, despite 42 points on court.
Bucks offense was limited after forward Michael Beasley was helped off with what was later described as a knee sprain early in the second quarter.
Beasley had earlier looked in lively form, scoring 11 points in the opening exchanges.
The game was effectively settled in the mid part of the fourth quarter, when Cleveland put together an 11-0 scoring run to put clear daylight between themselves and the Bucks.