After defeating the Knicks on Monday night by 117-112 at the Barclays Center, the Nets were on the road last night to face the Indiana Pacers riding a five game winning streak. They had won 13 of the previous 14 games. Remarkably, the Nets have been without Kevin for all but one of those wins, a 134-117 victory against the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 13, a game that began a nine-day, five-game road trip.
Durant has been out of the lineup since then, including sitting out the NBA All-Star Game on March 7, with a left hamstring strain. The Nets have not provided a definitive return date for Durant, who is averaging 29 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game in 19 games played. The Nets were 27-13 and only a half game behind the Philadelphia 76ers for the best record in the Eastern Conference when Tuesday night’s schedule began.
“It sucks to not have Kevin,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said two weeks after Durant’s most recent injury. “He’s an amazing, amazing basketball player, and anytime you have the Lamborghini in the garage, it’s meant to be on the road. So, we’re all disappointed.
“But,” added the first-year coach, “the team is going to be fine for stretches without Kevin. It’s more, you have this incredible player, and you want to build with him, and beyond that you just want Kevin to play. That’s what he was born to do, and what he does as well as anybody on the planet.”
The lethal trio of Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden has only played seven games together. But Harden has been the mainstay. The former Houston Rocket had played 26 games with the team heading into last night’s matchup in Indiana, averaging a near triple-double with 25.1 points, a league-leading 11.3 assists and 9.1 rebounds. While Irving has sat out 11 games, he has been devastating when on the court, posting 27.6 points, 5.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds prior to taking on the Pacers.
“It’s going to be pretty tough to beat us because we’re showing how physical we are, and we’re making shots,” said Harden after a hard fought win versus the Knicks.
“We can’t be the pretty, shot-making and easygoing team that we’ve been,” he asserted. “We’ve got to get dirty a little bit. We’ve got to do the small things, dive on the floor, taking charges, being physical, boxing out—the small things.”
Against Detroit, Harden dropped 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds, a triple double. Against the Knicks, Irving hit for 34 with another triple double from Harden, 21 points with 15 assists, 15 rebounds, 20 from Jeff Green, inserted into the lineup, and Joe Harris’ 13. A balance in scoring.
The Nets will be in Orlando to play the Magic tomorrow, March 19, back home on Sunday to host the Washington Wizards and go on the road for games March 23 and March 24 against the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz respectively.