Nets feel Durant’s absence in loss to Cavs
Harden and Irving not enough for struggling Brooklyn
Kevin Durant is irreplaceable.
The Brooklyn Nets readily admitted it after their 114-107 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Martin Luther King Day in front of 19,432 fans at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
“You can’t replace Kev,” said Kyrie Irving, who scored a team-high 27 points, but wasn’t able to connect down the stretch when it mattered most.
“It’s impossible. We just faced that reality right now,” he added.
The still-unvaccinated Irving, who isn’t eligible to play games at Downtown’s Barclays Center due to his lack of adherence with New York City’s COVID-19 mandates, will have to deal with that reality for several weeks before Durant may be eligible to return.
The two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player and league-leading scorer with nearly 30 point per game sprained a ligament in his left knee during the second quarter of Saturday’s win over New Orleans.
According to head coach Steve Nash, Durant will be re-evaluated in a few weeks, but a sprain of the medial collateral ligament usually takes at least four-to-six weeks to heal.
Irving was asked if he felt any urgency to get vaccinated ahead of Durant’s return, but Brooklyn is playing nine of its next 11 games on the road, making his return to home games less pressing.
“I’m not bringing science into it,” said Irving. “I’m staying rooted in what I believe in.”
James Harden’s 22 points weren’t quite enough either Monday as Brooklyn (27-16) fell to 4-7 in its last 11 games.
Darius Garland had 22 points and 12 assists and Isaac Okoro added 15 points for the Cavs (27-18), including a thunderous dunk after a Harden turnover that sealed the contest after Brooklyn missed its previous five shots.
“It’s a signature win for us against a high-level team,” Cleveland head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said following his team’s fifth straight win.
“Obviously with reasons why and excuses coming back off (a five-game) road trip and all those things, playing against two of the most elite players in our league, and our guys figuring out a way.”
LaMarcus Aldridge had 13 points off the bench and Kessler Edwards and Patty Mills added 11 apiece for the Nets, who are headed to Washington, D.C., to take on the Wizards Wednesday night.
“It’s an opportunity for our team to grow,” Nash said of Durant’s ongoing absence. “We have to find solutions.”
NOTHING BUT NET: Center Nic Claxton sat out his fourth consecutive game Monday with a hamstring injury. … After visiting the Wizards Wednesday, the Nets will go to San Antonio Friday and finish the four-game trip Sunday in Minnesota. … Without Durant, the Nets only managed 19 points in the fourth quarter Monday.
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