Superstar-less Nets lose ninth in a row
Injured Harden sits as Brooklyn gets bullied by Boston
With Thursday’s trade deadline looming, the Brooklyn Nets are in desperation mode.
James Harden missed his third straight game with a sore hamstring and Kyrie Irving was unavailable due to New York’s COVID-19 protocols as the Nets, already without injured superstar Kevin Durant, suffered their ninth straight loss, 126-91, to the Boston Celtics.
The sellout crowd of 17,732 that filled Barclays Center Tuesday was hoping to see Brooklyn (29-25) snap its longest losing streak since 2017.
Instead, our borough’s basketball fanatics watched the Nets fall behind 28-2 from the jump, and they never cut the deficit to anything smaller than 12 points.
Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart had 22 points apiece for the Celtics, who have reeled off six consecutive wins.
The Nets’ skid, which began with Brooklyn holding the Eastern Conference’s best record on Jan. 22, has dropped them into the eighth spot in the playoff race, meaning if the season ended today they’d have to participate in the league’s play-in tournament just to get into a postseason series.
Harden, who has reportedly been disgruntled with Irving’s home absences due to his vaccination status and is doubtlessly being discussed in potential deadline deals, was forced to watch Brooklyn suffer its biggest margin of defeat this year.
Durant remains out until at least the All-Star break between Feb. 17-24 with a knee sprain, and Irving will only be eligible to play in three of the next 10 games.
That leaves the Nets to find answers from players who aren’t accustomed to big minutes and even bigger situations.
Jevon Carter scored 21 points and rookie Cam Thomas and James Johnson had 17 apiece as Brooklyn fell to a Boston team it ran past in five games in last season’s Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
“We appreciate their effort,” frustrated Nets head coach Steve Nash said.
“We’re undermanned and we ask them to go out and do things they haven’t done. But we can’t drop our heads. We’re proud of the guys that are playing.”
The guys who aren’t are the ones Brooklyn needs back and locked in for a run at the franchise’s first-ever NBA title.
“We just have to keep fighting,” said Carter.
The Nets might have some extra fight in them in Washington, D.C., on Thursday night as Irving will be available on the road and Harden may find himself back on the hardwood.
Whether he’ll be in a Nets uniform or not, however, will be in question until the deadline passes.
Even if Nash believes nobody is going anywhere.
“Honestly, I think we’ll be exactly the same. I think the chances of trades or deals happening before the deadline are so slim, especially for our group,” he said.
“So my mind and attention is on this group and putting this thing together as guys become healthy again and trying to build it for the stretch run.”
NOTHING BUT NET: The Nets were also without LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) and Nic Claxton (ankle) in Tuesday’s loss. … Patty Mills, who made only 2-of-8 from 3-point range against the Celtics, found out Tuesday that he was selected to participate in the 3-Point Contest at All-Star Saturday Night. The event will be held on Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. ET at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland and will be broadcast by TNT. Mills will square off against Chicago’s Zach LaVine in the first round. … The Nets are 2-10 since Durant’s injury.
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