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Nets fall to Portland after long flight

Harden sits with knee injury in 114-108 loss to Blazers

January 11, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Steve Nash was noticeably baffled Sunday afternoon at Downtown’s Barclays Center when he was asked about the Nets’ quick turnaround following their thrilling overtime victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

“I can’t remember all the back-to-backs I ever played in, but I don’t remember any six-hour flights (to Portland) in between a back-to-back and three-hour time zones and all that stuff,” the Brooklyn Nets’ head coach noted.

“So it’s different, but we’ve got to take it as an opportunity, an opportunity to succeed under adversity.”

The Nets couldn’t quite manage to do so, suffering a 114-108 loss to the Trail Blazers Monday night in front of 16,379 fans at the Moda Center in a game that was originally scheduled for Dec. 23, but pushed back due to COVID-19 protocols.

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Kevin Durant scored 28 points and Kyrie Irving added 22 for Brooklyn, which was without superstar James Harden due a left-knee hyperextension.

Nash intimated that the Nets were being overly cautious with Harden, who logged 44 minutes in Sunday’s win over the Spurs.

“A heavy stretch of games. Expect him to play Wednesday (in |Chicago),” Nash said of Harden.

The Nets also were without center LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed his second consecutive contest with a sore right foot.

James Harden should be back with the Nets Wednesday in Chicago after missing Monday’s game with a hyperextended knee. AP Photo by Jessie Alcheh

But despite fielding a short-handed squad, the well-traveled Nets got a boost off the bench from their two rookies.

Cam Thomas, who hit the OT game-winner vs. San Antonio on Sunday, scored a career-high 21 points and Day’Ron Sharpe added a career-best 14 for Brooklyn, which was headed to Chicago for Wednesday’s tilt against the Bulls.

Anfernee Simons led five Portland starters in double figures in scoring with 23 points as the Blazers (10-24) ended Brooklyn’s five-game road winning streak.

Portland was also without several players, including Damian Lillard, Norman Powell and C.J. McCollum.

“Certainly nobody in the world thought that we would win this game with the guys that we have missing, even though they’re missing some important players too,” Portland head coach Chauncey Billups said.

“I’m more happy than anything for our team, to be honest. We’ve suffered a lot of losses in this building, a lot of bad losses.”

The Nets did appear to have a chance to complete the back-to-back sweep when they pulled within five points in the final minute.

But Ben McLemore answered for Portland, knocking down a 3-pointer with 32 ticks remaining to seal the Blazers’ second straight win.

“Second half, they hit 3s in that third quarter, they hit 3s in that fourth quarter. You gotta give them credit for knocking down shots but I thought we were there, intentions were good,” Durant said.

“We’ve just got to finish it a little better, finish plays a little better.”

Kyrie Irving scored 22 points for the second straight time since rejoining the Nets last week, but Brooklyn lost in Portland Monday night. AP Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

NOTHING BUT NET: After flying to Chicago for Wednesday’s game, the Nets will have to head right back to Brooklyn Thursday, when they’ll host the Oklahoma City, part of a stretch of five games in seven days after the Nets had three games postponed due to the Omicron outbreak. “I think it’s really important for us to take day-by-day right now. I know that’s a cliche, but I think that is the smartest way to approach this,” Nash said of the grueling stretch. … Irving, who remains unvaccinated and therefore ineligible to play in Brooklyn, went 9-of-21 from the floor and grabbed eight rebounds Monday in his second game back from a team-imposed exile for not adhering to New York City’s vaccination mandates. Nash indicated that Irving, who played 40 minutes against the Blazers, is still working his way back into shape, though the mercurial point guard has scored 22 points in each of his first two contests this year. “It felt like I made a few good moves, but now it’s just getting back in that NBA action of that athleticism and catching up to that speed, that’s really what it is at this point, I feel,” Irving said.

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