Kyrie Irving Credit: Bill Moore photo

The Brooklyn Nets’ current road trip facing Western Conference opponents, which began with a 110-106 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, was initially viewed as an opportunity for Kyrie Irving to consistently be in their lineup with the team dealing with injuries to Kevin Durant, James Harden, LaMarcus Alridge and Joe Harris.

Unable to play games at home at the Barclays Center due to New York City COVID-19 vaccination mandates, the unvaccinated Irving doesn’t have those restrictions on the road. He was sensational in scoring 32 points versus the Warriors and has been playing at his typical seven-time All-Star level since making his season debut against the Indiana Pacers Jan. 5, when he had a stat line of 22 points, four assists and four rebounds in a 129-121 Brooklyn win.

But Irving is now in a situation that calls for carrying an even heavier load due to so many key Nets sidelined. Durant is recovering from a sprained MCL in his left knee, suffered on Jan. 15 versus the New Orleans Pelicans, and there is no timetable for his return. James Harden missed the matchup at Golden State with a strained right hand and it could be an ongoing issue for him on the road trip, which had the Nets taking on the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. The Suns had the NBA’s best record at 40-9 going into the game.

Alridge injured his left ankle in the fourth quarter against the Warriors and the Nets have not indicated when he’ll be ready to return. Along with Durant, Harden and Alridge, guard Joe Harris is still trying to make his way back into the lineup after recently experiencing a setback in his rehab from ankle surgery in November. Harris hasn’t played a game since Nov. 14. The injuries make Irving even more vital to his team not dropping too far in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Nets were 29-20, sixth in the East, before playing the Suns. They had lost four in a row and were 4-6 in their previous 10 games. After Phoenix, the Nets met up with the Sacramento Kings last night (Wednesday) and will have games versus the Utah Jazz tomorrow and Denver Nuggets on Sunday to end the trip. The Nets will be home for the first time since Jan. 26 when they host the Boston Celtics next Tuesday.

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