Kevin Durant began Friday night’s game in isolation and ended it in isolation.
The only problem is the 19 minutes he played in between.
Durant, who was held out of the starting lineup because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, was cleared to play about eight minutes into the game, but midway through the third quarter, the league apparently changed its mind.
In between the confusion and concern, the Nets clawed back from a 17-point deficit before losing to the Raptors, 123-117, at Barclays Center.
Toward the end of the game, the NBA clarified that on Friday afternoon, Durant came into contact with someone with an inconclusive test, leading to his being held out of the starting lineup. During the game, that same person returned a positive test.
Further contact tracing will be needed even though Durant tested negative three times Friday. Coach Steve Nash said he doesn’t believe Durant will travel with the team to Philadelphia on Saturday, though the situation is fluid. Others, such as James Harden, wonder why the game was played at all.
"I feel like if we’re talking about contact tracing, he was around all of us, so I don’t understand why he wasn’t allowed to play and then was able to play and then taken back off the court," he said. "I was frustrated, especially, you know, we follow the protocols, we get tested every single day, so I don’t understand the whole thing where he couldn’t play and then he came on the court, and then they took him back. There’s just a lot going on. There’s too much going on. It’s kind of overwhelming."
During the game, Durant tweeted "Free Me," and afterward, Nash and Joe Harris expressed their concern about the possibility that he might miss another week. Durant, who had COVID-19 last March, missed a week last month because of contact tracing, though he didn’t test positive.
"It just seems a little odd to me that you’re going to have a guy not start, come in, play whatever Kevin played and then take him out again," Harris said. "These are games that are important. We’re trying to find our rhythm. Hopefully it doesn’t come down to that, but every game matters."
And this one was particularly painful. The Nets overcame a 17-point second-quarter deficit, took small leads in the third and fourth and eventually collapsed.
Kyle Lowry’s layup tied the score at 108 and, after Bruce Brown’s layup, Lowry hit back-to-back three pointers for a 114-110 Toronto lead.
Harris’ three-pointer made it 116-113, but Norman Powell grabbed an offensive rebound and found Fred VanVleet for a three-pointer. Pascal Siakam’s layup gave the Raptors a 121-113 lead with 35.8 seconds left.
Siakam led the Raptors with 33 points, 11 rebounds and six assists and Lowry added 30 points and seven assists. Harris scored 19 points and Harden had 17 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds.
Durant had eight points, six rebounds and five assists in 19:06.
Afterward, Nash acknowledged how bewildering the Durant situation really was, and how it affected the game.
"If I’m honest, I probably didn’t handle it great, trying to juggle all those balls, all that different information," he said. "We’ve already been playing guys a lot of minutes, and if Kevin’s not playing, are we going to run the remaining guys too many minutes? So maybe I got distracted by the big picture. But that’s the way this year’s going to be."