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Nets' Big 3 expected to play together on Saturday

Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) gathers with guard

Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) gathers with guard James Harden (13) and forward Kevin Durant during the second half against Golden State in San Francisco on Feb. 13. Credit: AP / Jeff Chiu

The Nets' Big 3 — Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden — are going to play together for only the eighth time this season Saturday afternoon against the Bulls at Barclays Center. Or so coach Steve Nash says.

Who knows if one of them will stub their toe on the way to the arena and be declared out? We just have to wait and see.

"I think tomorrow will be the day," Nash said when asked after Friday’s practice session if the Big 3 will get some time together. "If everything stays the same, those three will play together.

"I expect them to play hard, play together and experience some moments together on the floor. It’s been few and far between. I don’t necessarily have expectations other than it gives us an opportunity to jell and play together and feel what it’s like to be out there again."

Harden returned from an 18-game absence in the Nets’ victory over the Spurs on Wednesday at home. But Irving sat out that game after suffering a facial contusion on Tuesday against the Bulls in Chicago. Durant played but scored only 14 points, his third-worst effort of the season.

Harden joined the Nets 57 games ago but has played just 35 of those games. The Nets are 28-7 in those games, which is a phenomenal .800 winning percentage. He and Durant and Irving have combined for a mere seven appearances together, going 5-2. They last played together on Feb. 13, a 134-117 win at Golden State.

"I think if they can play together tomorrow, it’s positive," Nash said. "Whether it’s good, bad or indifferent from a performance standpoint, it’s an experience and is something we can put in the bank.

"The reality for our team is that everything is so new, we’ve had so little time together. We have to have the mindset that we’ve got to improve forever more throughout the season … We’re a team that’s got to build while we’re trying to win."

Nash said Irving actually was cleared to play against the Spurs because he did not suffer a concussion against the Bulls. He was rested as a precautionary measure. So he is good to go against the Bulls.

If the Nets (46-24) win their final two games against the Bulls and then Cavaliers on Sunday, they will clinch the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The third-place Bucks (45-25) hold the tiebreaker against the Nets and finish with a home game against the Heat on Saturday and a road game against the Bulls on Sunday. If they lose one and the Nets win one, the Nets clinch second. If the Bucks win both, the Nets must win both to finish second.

Asked about the importance of earning the second seed, which would give the Nets home-court advantage over the Bucks if they meet in the second round of the playoffs, Nash said, "It’s not something that is do or die. It would be nice to finish second. At the same time, we’ll see how this goes and we’ll make the subsequent decisions based on what happens tomorrow and then be prepared for Sunday."

Obviously, the Nets would prefer to rest players on Sunday, which makes Saturday’s game against the Bulls a crucial one.

New York Sports