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Nets' Joe Harris returns home for personal reasons

Kyle Lowry, left, of the Raptors pressures Joe

Kyle Lowry, left, of the Raptors pressures Joe Harris, right, of the Nets during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA first-round playoff series on Wednesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Credit: AP/Kevin C. Cox

Cross Joe Harris off the Nets’ active roster for at least Games 3 and 4 of their first-round playoff series against the defending NBA champion Raptors. Shortly after they went down 2-0 in the series on Wednesday, the Nets announced Harris had to leave the NBA campus at Disney World in Orlando for undisclosed personal reasons.

Harris thus became the 10th player eliminated from the Nets’ roster because of illness, injury or personal reasons during the NBA restart. Although he spoke last month about his mother’s battle with cancer and her positive prognosis, an NBA source said the family matter that caused Harris to leave is not related to his mother’s health.

Still, the Nets must dig down deeply into their well of resiliency in Game 3 on Friday afternoon. “It’s a big loss for us,” coach Jacque Vaughn said on Thursday. “But it’s an opportunity for us to respond as a group, figure this puzzle out, accept the challenge and have someone else step up.”

Through the first two games of the series against the Raptors, Harris was averaging 16.5 points on 52.2 % shooting from the field (12 of 23), including 58.3 % from three-point range (7 of 12). Vaughn did not announce a replacement for Harris in the starting lineup, but whether he starts or not, the role of Tyler Johnson is bound to expand. Vaughn ruled veteran Jamal Crawford (strained left hamstring) out of the next two games.

The loss of Harris hit his teammates hard. “Sometimes, we get so caught up in basketball and what our job is that we forget that there’s a lot more to us as people,” Johnson said. “For Joe, it’s a no-brainer. He has to go take care of his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family right now. It’s bigger than basketball.

“As far as other guys stepping up, we’re losing a guy who was putting in a lot of work and was playing really well for us, so, it’s not just going to be me who has to step up. There’s going to be a lot of guys who have to fill that void.”

Garrett Temple echoed the notion of how multiple Nets must step up. Describing the pressure Harris put on the Raptors’ defense, Temple said, “That was one of the guys they couldn’t leave open. With the way they swarm to the ball, Caris [LeVert] is going to have to find even more outlets, and guys are going to have to knock down shots to open it up for Caris and [center Jarrett Allen] in the lane.

“We’ll probably be even smaller, depending on who starts in Joe’s place. He brings a lot of toughness, a lot of grit to our team, and my prayers are with him and his family going through whatever they’re going through.”

Temple, Johnson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot now will be the Nets’ primary threats from three-point range. “They give up the second-most threes in the league behind Milwaukee,” Temple said of the Raptors. “Without Joe, we’re probably going to get more open ones, but you’ve got to shoot them with confidence, let them fly.”

Indeed, Raptors coach Nick Nurse admitted his defense primarily has been focused on containing LeVert, who had a rough 5-for-22 shooting effort in Game 2. Nurse said he has covered LeVert with Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, has switched on him, trapped him, pressured him and laid back at times.

“He’s seeing everything we’ve got, Nurse said. “We had to use everything [in Game 2].”

Harris was the second key shooter the Raptors had to defend, so, their job just got easier. “It’s too bad,” Nurse said of Harris’ departure. “He’s really played great and had a great series. Obviously, he’s one of the premier knockdown guys in the league. So, it’s unfortunate for him and his family and his personal situation, first and foremost, and for their team. We always want the best players out there playing.”

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