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This Christmas Day clash between the Nets and Lakers was missing Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis — and much of the luster expected. 

But the drama? That was there. 

The Nets ran out to a huge lead, blew it then made winning plays down the stretch for a 122-115 victory over the Lakers at the newly coined Crypto.com Arena. 

James Harden (36 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds) and Patty Mills (34 points) were brilliant, just the second time two Nets had topped 30 on the same night this season. And Harden had four points and an assist in the 7-0 run to break a late tie and close it out. 

The Nets led by 23 in the fourth quarter, only to cough up a 31-8 run. They watched the Lakers tie it at 115-all. 

That is, until Harden and Nic Claxton conspired to untie it with a highlight reel alley-oop for an and-one. It put the Nets ahead by three, and after they forced a Russell Westbrook miss, Harden sank a pair of free throws on the other end to make it 120-115 with 20.6 seconds left. 

Patty Mills' 34 points tied for a career-high.
Patty Mills’ 34 points tied for a career-high.
AP

He added two more for the final margin, in arguably his best game of the season. 

“Its been a big challenge for James,” coach Steve Nash said beforehand. “The hamstring last year was so unfortunate, missed a lot of time then spent the entire summer kind of trying to get over that. So you came into the season without the regular conditioning, ramp up. So there was a lot thrown at him to get himself in shape — first of all get himself healthy, get himself in shape, find his rhythm, his confidence, and adjust to basically a whole new team, 10 new players. 

“So there’s been a lot thrown at him. And he’s continued to progress and get better. Obviously, the latest COVID interruption hit, so he kind of starts afresh here today. But overall really pleased with his work to get back and to continue to improve throughout the season. And he could still get better, we know that. He’s eager and loves the game.” 

James Harden finished with a team-high 36 points.
James Harden finished with a team-high 36 points.
USA TODAY Sports

The Nets (22-9) played for the first time in a week, after having three straight games postponed due to their COVID-19 outbreak. 

The Lakers (16-18) lost their fifth straight, despite 39 points from LeBron James. 

Brooklyn hit six of their first seven, jumping out to a quick 14-6 edge. 

After Mills hit a 3-pointer, Harden crossed over and blew past Wayne Ellington for a floater and 19-8 lead. 

Down 70-68, the Nets went on a 9-2 run to take the lead. 

Mills hit DeAndre’ Bembry for a floater and a 77-72 edge with 8:26 left in the third. 

Clinging to a 79-76 edge, the Nets closed the period on an extended 21-6 run to blow it open. Mills found Bembry again for a cutting layup and a 102-82 lead to close out the third. 

It reached as high as 23 about 1 ¹/₂ minutes into the fourth. 

Nic Claxton's alley-oop, and-1 dunk to give the Nets a three-point lead in the last minute of their 122-115 win over the Lakers.
Nic Claxton’s alley-oop, and-one dunk to give the Nets a three-point lead in the last minute of their 122-115 win over the Lakers.
AP

A 17-0 run — aided by a Harden flagrant and Mills taking a breather — got the Lakers within six at 107-101. 

The Nets went ice cold, scoreless in 5:18 until Mills broke the drought with a ring-wing 3. But Harden was being given fits by Stanley Johnson’s defense, the Lakers’ scrapping switches and letting the long-armed forward smother Harden. 

The Lakers made it 22-3 on James’ layup, pulling within 110-106. 

A Bruce Brown layup made it six with 2:58 left. 

And after a James layup pulled the Lakers within a deuce at 112-110, Mills sook free of Russell Westbrook and hit a huge 3-pointer — his eighth — to pad it back to five with 1:34 left. 

But a James 3, Harden miss and Malik Monk layup knotted it at 115-all with 45 seconds remaining.

Source: NYPOST

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