ATLANTA — The Nets went into their game against the Hawks Friday night at State Farm Arena with only four active double-figures scorers thanks to the absence of injured Joe Harris and superstar Kyrie Irving who has been sidelined all season because he’s not in compliance with the New York City vaccine mandate.
So the scoring load has fallen upon their other superstars, Kevin Durant (28.4 points per game) and James Harden (20.9), and they are a more defensive-oriented team.
"It’s not a different defensive challenge because you still have two of the most elite scorers in the league and probably two of the more efficient scorers in the league still out on the floor in Durant and James," Hawks coach Nate McMillan said before the game. "They’re one of the top teams moving the ball. Those guys are just machines at the offensive end of the floor.
"Without Kyrie, their lineup is a little bigger, so they’re switching everything [defensively] and keeping the ball in front of them and making you shoot over the top. With Kyrie not there, they’ve still got two bazookas with James and Durant."
Notes & quotes: Early in the season, Harden was a casualty of new rules preventing foul calls on non-basketball moves, getting only 4.7 fouls shots per game. But Nets coach Steve Nash said the officials have adjusted, as Harden’s average of 10.9 foul shots in the past 13 games shows. "I think the officials have recognized that maybe there was an overcorrection at times with him. I feel like it’s settled to a place where I have no problem with the ones where they deem it was not a basketball play. But there’s so many times in a game where he’s got the ball going through traffic, and I don’t care how you slice and dice the rulebook, it’s a foul. So I think they’ve done a good job of recognizing that adjusting, and I think we’re back to a better place right now."