Nets tune out noise in win over Wizards
Protests diminish as Brooklyn jumps all over Washington
There was a lot less “Save Kyrie!” and a lot more “Let’s go Nets!” in and around Downtown’s Barclays Center Monday night.
More than 24 hours after the state-of-the-art arena served as host to those opposed to Kyrie Irving being banned from playing or practicing alongside his teammates due to his vaccination status, the Nets appeared primed and ready to get back to the business of basketball.
And Kevin Durant made sure they did just that.
The Nets’ superstar forward scored a game-high 25 points as Brooklyn bounced back from Sunday’s home-opening loss to Charlotte with a resounding 104-90 victory over the visiting Washington Wizards in front of 14,487 fans on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.
Durant, who put up 38 points in Sunday’s humbling defeat to the Hornets mere hours after Barclays was flooded with protesters against vaccination mandates, isn’t waiting around for Irving to get his first shot before being cleared to return to full-time activities with the Nets (2-2).
“While we are playing in a game, I am not going to sit there and say … when we get down or it is a tight game, like ‘Damn, we don’t have enough,'” Durant told ESPN on Sunday.
“We are not going to be thinking about [that] during the game,” he added. “We definitely want Kyrie Irving out here on the floor. And he is a huge part of what we do. But it is not happening right now. So we got to figure it out.”
They did so Monday by storming out to a 38-20 lead after one quarter, exceeding their point total for the entire second half of Sunday’s ugly 111-95 defeat to Charlotte.
Durant, arguably the best player in the world and certainly the Nets’ go-to performer in the clutch, may be growing tired of hearing about Irving’s absence, especially in the wake of ongoing protests over his banishment.
“No one is going to lose confidence while we playing and hope Kyrie comes to save us during the game,” the two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player intimated.
“No, we got to play. Everybody here is confident in what they do. We just got to play.”
Play they did for the better part of four quarters Monday as veteran Patty Mills poured in 21 points off the bench and Bruce Brown and James Harden added 14 apiece for Brooklyn, which will continue this ongoing six-game homestand Wednesday here vs. Miami.
“I think we came in on the second night of a back-to-back and imposed our will the whole game,” Durant told the Associated Press after going 9-for-17 from the floor and ripping down eight rebounds.
Hopefully the Nets can play out the rest of this homestand with significantly less fanfare than the organization confronted during Sunday’s protest, which threatened to spill into the arena before Barclays shut its entrances.
“Barclays Center briefly closed its doors (Sunday) in order to clear protestors from the main doors on the plaza and ensure guests could safely enter the arena,” a Barclays Center spokesperson said in a statement.
“Only ticketed guests were able to enter the building and the game proceeded according to schedule.”
Irving wasn’t anywhere in sight, either Sunday or Monday.
The mercurial point guard refused to get a vaccine shot during the preseason, when the Nets were gearing up for what many anticipate will be a history-making campaign.
After initially indicating that they would work around Irving’s non-vax status by allowing him to practice and play with the team on the road, the Nets announced prior to the season opener in Milwaukee that their third superstar would not play unless or until he is vaccinated or restrictions are eased.
It’s hard to tell which, if any, of those will come first.
But what has always come first to Durant and the Nets is grabbing Brooklyn’s first major pro sports championship since 1955.
That is the focus for the time being and going forward.
Anything else, should be met with protests.
NOTHING BUT NET: After running out to an early 18-point lead Monday, the Nets took time to honor one of their former fan favorites. Spencer Dinwiddie, who left Brooklyn via trade to Washington in August, received a video tribute between the first and second quarters. The former Nets guard had 10 points, six assists and five rebounds. … LaMarcus Aldridge took the second half of the back-to-back off Monday after producing nine points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes during Sunday’s loss. … After hosting the Heat Wednesday, the Nets will continue their stand Friday vs. Indiana, Sunday against Detroit and next Wednesday vs. Atlanta.
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