Even when things go wrong for the Nets — and there certainly hasn’t been any shortage of that this season — Kevin Durant has proved he can make it right.
On a night when the Nets lost Seth Curry to a sprained ankle and Steve Nash confirmed that Ben Simmons’ mysterious back ailment is actually a herniated disc, Durant did what he does best — which is to say dominate in a way that shows that no one can count the Nets out. Even without Simmons. And even, often, without Kyrie Irving.
Durant had 37 points, nine rebounds and eight assists and the Nets put together a monstrous third quarter as they beat the Jazz, 114-106, on Monday night at Barclays Center for their sixth win in seven games. What’s more, they did it mostly without Curry, who was injured in the second quarter, and without big men LaMarcus Aldridge (right hip impingement) and Andre Drummond (non-COVID-19 illness), whom they certainly could have used against Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside.
“I just think we’re rallying around each other,” Durant said. “We’re making big plays. We’re just doing it together more than anything, just a collective effort…It’s good for people to get an opportunity to play, but it’s good to have a deep team like that that we can throw guys in that have been in the fire before.”
A 13-2 Jazz run late in the fourth quarter made it interesting, but Nic Claxton’s alley-oop from Durant with 37.4 seconds left was the final momentum-killer the Nets needed.
Durant turned in his 20th game of at least 30 points this season, fourth-most in franchise history, and surpassed Jerry West for 22nd place on the NBA scoring list.
Bruce Brown had a season-high 22 points with seven rebounds. He entered the day averaging 14.4 points per game in March, compared to 8.0 points for the season.
Donovan Mitchell scored 30 for Utah (45-27).
The Nets (38-34) turned a six-point deficit with about three minutes left in the second quarter into a two-point halftime lead, courtesy of an 8-0 run, and went into the break up 53-51 — a lead they never relinquished. They outscored the Jazz 38-24 in the third, led by Durant, who scored 15, and Claxton, who scored 11 of his 15 points while making the best of the extra playing time afforded to him with Drummond and Aldridge out.
“I think it was a great performance,” Nash said. “Everybody contributed and had moments that helped us get the win.”
In all, the night helped put a brighter spin of the various adversities they continue to face with only 10 games left in the regular season.
There’s still no indication that Irving will be allowed to play at home because of his vaccination status, the Simmons news seems to get worse every time there’s a real update, and Curry, a true bright spot since the trade that brought him here along with Simmons and Drummond, tripped and sprained his left ankle with three minutes left in the second quarter.
It’s the same ankle that caused him to miss three games earlier this month and the same ankle Curry said has been bothering him since January. He said last week that he could only hope to manage the discomfort for the rest of the season. Nash had no update postgame.
That came just hours after Nash confirmed Simmons’ herniated disc — a recurrence of an injury that nagged him in 2020 — which he’s been dealing with for weeks. Simmons had an epidural last week, and Nash said he believes it relieved some discomfort, but he didn’t know to what extent.
The Nets still expect Simmons to play this season, but he hasn’t progressed to practicing yet, and given that he hasn’t played since last June, there’s a good degree of uncertainty to his immediate future. As far as Nash knows, surgery has not been discussed.