Kyrie gets elbowed, but Nets beat up Bulls
Superstar suffers apparent facial injury in second quarter
Kyrie Irving took one for the team Tuesday night in Chicago.
Irving absorbed an elbow to the face from center Nikola Vucevic during the second quarter of the Brooklyn Nets’ wire-to-wire 115-107 taming of the Bulls in front of 3,434 fans at the United Center.
“He mixes it up a lot with the big fellas so he might catch an elbow here and there,” Kevin Durant said of his fellow superstar after learning that X-rays taken following the game on Irving were inconclusive and the point guard exhibited no signs of concussion-like symptoms.
“He took a nice elbow to the face,” Durant emphasized after scoring a team-high 21 points and handing out eight assists in Brooklyn’s second straight win since a season-high four-game losing streak.
While the Nets (45-24) are still waiting for James Harden (hamstring) to return during their final three regular-season games, including Wednesday’s matchup with San Antonio at Barclays Center, they had to feel heartened that
Irving’s brutal collision with Vucevic’s elbow didn’t result in a serious injury.
“No signs of a concussion. He had an x-ray which was inconclusive so we’ll really just have to look again in the morning,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash.
“Probably be re-scanned and all that when we get home and we’ll take it from there.”
Joe Harris scored 17 points, Bruce Brown added 15 points and 10 rebounds, Jeff Green had 14 points off the bench and Blake Griffin and Irving finished with 13 apiece for Brooklyn, which remained one game in front of Milwaukee (44-25) for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Mike James poured in 11 points and Nic Claxton had 10 for the Nets, who put forth one of their most balanced and consistent efforts as they await the return of Harden to put them at full strength for what many are predicting will be an historic playoff run.
“That’s what we do every game,” Durant insisted. “That’s who we’ve been all season.”
Zach LaVine torched the Nets for a game-high 41 points, but Chicago (29-40) likely lost any chance it had to reach the postseason via the NBA’s play-in tournament.
“Zach did all he could to carry us,” Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said. “We needed that because we just didn’t have a lot of other things going.”
The Nets did.
Only Landry Shamet, who managed one point in 27 minutes, didn’t reach double figures in scoring for Brooklyn, which will follow Wednesday’s home game vs. the Spurs with its final two regular-season games at Barclays on Saturday against these same Bulls and Sunday vs. Cleveland.
After that, it will finally be time for the Nets to get down to the business of capturing their first-ever NBA title, regardless of what seed they finish with.
“I think the No. 1 thought and priority as a staff is health over seeding,” said Nash.
Having Durant, Harden and Irving healthy and ready for the postseason will doubtlessly be a lot more meaningful for the Nets then finishing ahead of Philadelphia or Milwaukee in the regular season.
“We know what this season has been like. We’ll be grateful if we can have a full complement of players available and start building and be prepared for the playoffs,” Nash added.
“I think right now we feel pretty positive and optimistic that we’re close and we’re in a good place.”
If Ronny Mauricio and Josh Walker keep playing like this, they might not even be with the Cyclones by the time they return to Coney Island on May 18 because they should be at a higher level.
Mauricio homered for the third consecutive game and Walker backed up a dazzling Opening Day start in Asheville by tossing five strong innings as the Baby Bums opened a six-game series in Greenville, South Carolina with a 6-1 victory over the Drive in front of 1,995 fans at Fluor Field.
Mauricio, a shortstop from the legendary San Pedro de Macoris, home of many fabled players at that position in the Major Leagues, cracked a two-out, two-run shot in the top of the fourth inning to cap the scoring.
Through his first five games at the Mets’ new High-A affiliate, Mauricio is batting .333 with three homers and seven RBIs.
Walker (2-0), who helped pitch Brooklyn to the New York-Penn League title two summers ago, struck out seven and walked one while yielding a run on seven hits for his second consecutive victory.
The Cyclones (3-3) have homered in all six of their games this year, a trend they were hoping to continue Wednesday night in Greenville.
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