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With Kevin Durant out again, Nets' injuries can hurt postseason chances

Nets forward Kevin Durant leaves the court after

Nets forward Kevin Durant leaves the court after a play during the first half of an NBA game against the Heat on Sunday in Miami. Credit: AP/Wilfredo Lee

With just 15 games left in their regular season, the Nets appear to be caught in an endless whirlpool of injuries that are threatening to take their championship aspirations down the drain.

The Nets on Monday issued an injury report listing seven players who will miss Tuesday night’s game against the Pelicans in New Orleans, including superstars Kevin Durant and James Harden.

Durant was five games into a comeback from a two-month absence to recover from a left hamstring strain when he suffered a left thigh contusion four minutes into Sunday’s loss in Miami. Harden will miss his seventh straight game with a right hamstring strain, although he is getting close to a return.

Tyler Johnson (right knee soreness), Chris Chiozza (hand surgery rehab) and Spencer Dinwiddie (knee surgery rehab) all are out with long-term injuries, and the Nets added backup center Nic Claxton and little-used forward Reggie Perry to the list because of NBA health and safety protocols related to COVID-19.

The Durant injury obviously wounded the Nets most because he looked so good in the initial stages of his comeback.

"The timing of everything this year has just been a telltale sign of what life is right now in terms of the uncertainty of a lot going on," guard Kyrie Irving said.

"Any time one of our teammates goes down, it’s definitely going to take a hit for us.

"And he’s just gotten back. We just pray that it’s not too serious and he’s able to recover, but it definitely has a hit on our continuity at times. But we’re not making any excuses for each other. We’re all professionals. The guys that are getting minutes right now, we need them. It’s going to turn eventually, but we’ve just got to find that continuity, that connectivity from the start of the game to the end."

Thanks to an assortment of injuries, medical protocols and personal absences, the Nets’ Big 3 of Durant, Harden and Irving has shared the court exactly seven times since the Jan. 14 trade for Harden. Entering the game against the Pelicans, Durant had missed 33 of 57 games, Irving had missed 16 of 57 and Harden had missed 10 of his 44 with the Nets.

First-time head coach Steve Nash used his 31st different starting lineup against the Heat.

"It’s been that way the whole year," Nash said. "Kevin’s only played [24] games, James has missed a couple of weeks, Ky has missed some games. We’ve had plenty of guys out of the lineup, so our team’s used to stepping up and having different rotations. Nothing new for us."

When asked if the constant parade of injuries is the reality that might define this Nets season, Irving grimaced.

"Yes, it’s just a reality that we have to accept," he said. "We’ve still got to maintain a goal to get more connected as a group before we do head into the playoffs. [But] when guys are getting hurt on any team, it’s definitely going to take a hit to the camaraderie and just building consistency so that we have a lineup that works. So it’s just adjusting to that reality."

New York Sports