Kevin Durant again gets little rest in Nets' victory over Hornets
With concern mounting about the amount of minutes Kevin Durant is playing this season, it appeared that the NBA scheduling gods finally delivered the Nets an opponent for which they didn’t have to lean heavily upon their star player to beat.
At least that should have been the take heading into Wednesday night’s game against a disappointing Charlotte Hornets squad that had no LaMelo Ball and no Gordon Hayward.
Instead, the Nets once again had to get major minutes and heroics out of Durant as he scored 29 points to go with Kyrie Irving’s 33 as the Nets defeated the Hornets, 122-116, at Barclays Center.
The Nets (14-12) have won eight of their last 11. On their current seven-game homestand, they are 5-1 with their sole loss coming to the Boston Celtics, the team with the best record in the NBA.
To get to this point, the Nets have had to lean heavily on Durant, who played more than 36 minutes, scoring nine points in the final seven minutes. The Nets also got 20 points from Seth Curry off the bench and 14 from Nic Claxton.
Terry Rozier scored 29 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 28 for the Hornets, who have lost three straight and seven of 10.
Heading into Wednesday night’s play, no one in the NBA had played more minutes than Durant this season. At age 34, Durant led the league in minutes with 922 in 25 games. Durant’s average of 36.9 minutes per game ranked third in the league behind Anfernee Simons (37.1) and Jayson Tatum (37.0). Tatum is 10 years younger than Durant and Simons is 11 years his junior.
Named the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Week on Monday, Durant has played a particularly taxing role in the Nets’ current seven game homestand. Durant who played 40 minutes Sunday in a loss to Boston, has averaged 37 minutes in the past six games.
Durant has not complained about his workload and has more than once semi-joked that he aims to play “48 a game.” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn, however, knows this is not been a sustainable situation.
“It’s priority No. 1, all honesty,” Vaughn said when asked if he was looking to cut Durant’s minutes “ . . . There is vision going ahead of hopefully getting some of those minutes down. It’s just stretches of the season where you are trying to win games, you’re trying to win that day’s game and you hope you get through by playing Kevin those amount of minutes with the long-term view of cutting those minutes.”
If the Nets take care of business Friday at home against Atlanta, it’s possible that Vaughn would consider resting Durant Saturday in Indiana. After that the Nets have a less taxing schedule for a while.
Of course, Charlotte should have not been a taxing game. For most of the first three quarters, it looked as if the Nets had the game under control as they trailed only briefly by a point and led by 23 points in the second quarter. Charlotte kept chipping away and with Durant on the bench at the start of the fourth quarter, the Nets couldn’t get stops and the Hornets were able to pull within one point, 115-114, with two minutes left.
Durant then made a three-pointer with 1:47 and the Nets were able to keep control of the game.
“I know we had high expectations, but they are pros,” Durant said. “They have guys who can put numbers up on the board.”
Still, it was a little too close for Vaughn.
Said Vaughn: “We feel good we won this basketball game, but the overall feel of the game and the way we didn’t execute, that part doesn’t feel good. But you’re 5-1 and you got one more. Let’s be 6-1 on this homestand.”