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Nets look to complete winning trip

Shoot for third straight victory in Philadelphia Wednesday

January 24, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The Nets are refusing to let Kevin Durant’s absence affect their second-half surge toward the postseason.

“It’s a lot of confidence going around, everybody’s taking the challenge, stepping up, finding out ways to win games,” said Brooklyn forward Royce O’Neale after burying the decisive 3-pointer in Sunday’s come-from-behind 120-116 victory at defending NBA champion Golden State.

O’Neale is just one of the Nets (29-17) who have taken it upon themselves not to fall into the type of malaise they suffered during last year’s five-week absence by Durant, who is working his way back from a sprained right medial collateral ligament.

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Last January, Durant went down with a left MCL sprain and Brooklyn went a dismal 5-18, dropping from the No. 2 seed all the way down to seventh and into the Eastern Conference’s play-in tournament.

After dropping their first three games sans Durant this year, the Nets have rebounded with back-to-back wins on their five-game road trip, which they will try to close out with a victory Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

Brooklyn could have easily fallen further in the standings following their first week without their top superstar, but Kyrie Irving poured in 48 points during last Friday’s triumph in Utah and made a timely pass to O’Neale with the clock winding down against the Warriors for the game-winning shot.

“They did a great job of staying on my body, keeping the game physical, making it tough,” Irving said of Golden State’s defense after settling for a game-high 38 points.

Kyrie Irving and the Nets will try to win their third straight game without Kevin Durant Wednesday in the City of Brotherly Love. AP Photo by D. Ross Cameron

“I felt like my teammates had a lot of great looks, drawing the defense, drawing two, three to lose their man,” he added. “Royce being wide open, I felt like that was the best shot for our team so I gave up the ball, trusted him to make it and luckily it went in.”

The Nets’ modest two-game win streak follows a season high-tying four-game skid. They haven’t won three in a row since a Brooklyn-best 12-game winning streak from Nov. 7-Jan. 2.

Beating the 76ers (30-16) would help them tie Philadelphia for the second-best record in the East behind NBA-leading Boston (35-13).

The Sixers enter Wednesday’s game riding a five-game winning streak following Saturday’s 129-127 win at Sacramento despite playing without both former Net James Harden and Joel Embiid.

Philadelphia’s dynamic duo was sidelined by foot injuries, but the Sixers remain the league’s hottest team after winning 18 of 22 since a 12-12 start to the campaign.

“That was a resilient win by our guys,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said after the narrow win over the Kings.
“Everyone who played did something to help us win tonight. It’s a team win.”

Both squads will be looking for another one of those “team wins” Wednesday night in the City of Brotherly Love.

Former Net James Harden’s foot injury may keep him out of Wednesday’s tilt in Philadelphia against Brooklyn. AP Photo by Amanda Loman

NOTHING BUT NET: Former Philadelphia swingman Ben Simmons will be battling his old teammates for the second time since joining the Nets in last year’s blockbuster deal that sent Harden to the Sixers. Back in November, Simmons was booed roundly every time he touched the ball during Brooklyn’s 115-106 loss in Philly. “I thought it was going to be louder,” Simmons jabbed after finishing with 11 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. The versatile Simmons sat out all of last season while dealing with mental-health concerns and a herniated disk. He is averaging a career-low 2.4 turnovers per game for Brooklyn this season to go with 7.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists. … After visiting the Sixers, the Nets will kick off a three-game homestand at Barclays Center Thursday vs. Detroit.

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