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Nash blames fatigue from travel and back-to-back games for loss in Portland

Nets head coach Steve Nash gesture in overtime

Nets head coach Steve Nash gesture in overtime against the San Antonio Spurs in an NBA basketball game at Barclays Center on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

On Tuesday, the Nets got a much-needed day of rest even though it included a nearly four-hour flight from Portland to Chicago, where they face the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls on Wednesday night at United Center. It was a day off between a set of coast-to-coast, back-to-backs that take them from Brooklyn to Portland to Chicago and back to Brooklyn to face Oklahoma City on Thursday night.

Coach Steve Nash blamed fatigue for the Nets’ poor performance in their loss to the Trail Blazers, who were missing four starters, and really, the wear and tear of their condensed schedule has to be the foremost consideration right now for the Nets (25-14). Kevin Durant totaled nearly 85 minutes in the Nets’ past two games, and Nash said he expects him to play against the Bulls (27-11), who have won 10 of their last 11 games after beating the Pistons at home Tuesday night.

"We’ll find him a game to miss somewhere coming up," Nash said of Durant’s load management. "From a competitive standpoint, it’s hard to limit his minutes because he wants to play, especially in games like this [in Portland], where we’ve got a chance to win. We’ve got to find games where we can sit him out and rest him."

Durant totally discounted fatigue as a factor in the Nets’ loss to the Blazers. "Who cares?" Durant said following the loss. "Championship teams go through a little adversity . . . I’m not making no excuses about no flights, our schedule."

As for whether he might welcome a night off during the current stretch of five games in seven nights, Durant was emphatic. "No, let me die out there," Durant said. With a smile, he added: "Nah, I’m just playing. I’m not concerned. Whenever coach wants to give me a day, then I’ll support it. But I’m not looking for one. I’m just going to play until they tell me I’m sitting out. If I’ve got to play 40, so what? I’m going to play."

In Portland, the Nets rested James Harden (hyperextended left knee) even though Nash described it as precautionary and expects him to play in Chicago. But their injury report Tuesday still listed Harden as questionable, along with Nic Claxton (left hamstring tightness) and Kyrie Irving (left ankle sprain).

The Nets’ "Big 3" still might play together for the second time against the Bulls since Irving rejoined the team as a part-time player in road games. Irving scored 22 while playing more than 39 minutes against the Blazers.

But in the fourth quarter, he rolled his left ankle when Nassir Little dived for a loose ball and upended Irving awkwardly. Irving called it a "reckless" play and insisted he is good to go against the Bulls, but his condition bears monitoring.

Assessing where he’s at after playing two games, Irving said: "First, I’ve got to catch my wind, 39 minutes tonight. Get my legs underneath me in the fourth quarter . . . It felt like I made a few good moves, but now it’s just getting back in NBA action of the athleticism and catching up to that speed. That’s really what it is at this point."

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