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Kevin Durant saves lethargic Nets in victory over Trail Blazers

A day that began with New York City’s new health coordinator saying the mandates that kept the unvaccinated Kyrie Irving from playing in Brooklyn remain “indefinitely,” and continued, as Nets coach Adding even more fog to the grim circumstances surrounding Ben Simmons’ back, Steve Nash’s injury eventually went down the drain.

But after a devastating first half, the lone superstar and Nets’ top scorer saved them on Friday night.

After a gruesome first 24 minutes, in which Brooklyn conceded 75 points to a miserable team, the Nets rallied behind Kevin Durant and Seth Curry and breathed a sigh of relief after a 128-123 win over the Trail Blazers at the Barclays Center.

The Nets (37-34), who have won five games out of six, are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Hornets and Hawks for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. However, their win should have been more comfortable against the tanking Trail Blazers (26-43), who lost nine of 10.

Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant saved the Nets against the Trail Blazers.
Getty Images

The Nets were even 18 points behind in the third quarter, played little defense and made 21 turnovers. But perhaps the NBA’s best player and one of its best shooters can right many mistakes.

Durant might have been sloppy – he finished with eight turnovers – but he was also outstanding, scoring 38 points. Curry added 27 points, his highest total with the Nets, in 9-for-14 shooting and 7-for-11 from 3-point range, showing how much they’ve missed him after playing three games with had an ankle injury.

As Friday dragged on, there was frustration — a technician called for Andre Drummond and the Nets’ bench — there was chippiness, and there was a run that brought the Nets back from a huge hole.

The Nets were 82-64 in the third quarter with 10:40 left as they began to build their defense (and offense). They were frustrated and berated the referees, and they allowed their anger to manifest in points. They ran away with a 32-12 sprint to put themselves back in the lead, topped by a Durant 3-pointer that gave the Nets a lead they didn’t give up.

The Blazers equalized with 101 points early in the fourth quarter when Durant rested, but then it was Curry’s turn to take over. He drilled a pair of 3s as part of a 10-0 ruck that gave the Nets the advantage. Portland made a late run, but Nic Claxton’s tip-in by 21.4 seconds was the deciding factor.

The 75 points the Nets gave up in the first half was ugly, but their 39 points in the third quarter proved more important.

Seth Curry and Kevin Durant
Seth Curry and Kevin Durant
AP

The Nets received big contributions from Goran Dragic (nine points and a season-high 10 assists) and Andre Drummond (17 points, mostly in a strong first half). But the game revolved around Curry and Durant – the superstar whose vaccination status and healthy back allow him to carry the nets.

Whenever the Nets needed a bucket, Durant turned up. He hit 11 of 15 from the field and added another 14 points from the free throw line.

His 3-pointer in the third quarter eventually put the Nets over the top 96-94, and they never looked back.

By the end of the game, the missteps and problems were forgotten.

Earlier on Friday, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the new health commissioner, said there was no end in sight to New York City’s private vaccination mandate preventing the unvaccinated Irving from playing home games.

Seth Curry
Seth Curry finished with 27 points.
Getty Images

Irving’s absence would be easier to bear if the Nets could count on Simmons, but the jewel in the return the Nets made in trading James Harden continues to be sidelined by a back issue. Nash couldn’t give any updates on whether the epidural injection Simmons received Tuesday had helped, or even a timeline at all, while mentioning an MRI scan that hadn’t been previously disclosed.

The bad news just kept coming until the second-half surge.

Durant poured in 22 points in the first half, but they might have been hollow. He opened 7-for-9 in the first 24 minutes and kept the nets in play along with Drummond and Curry. The trio combined for 49 of the team’s 62 points at the break, which put them 13 behind one of the worst teams in the game.

Durant, usually safe-handed, made the Nets’ nine turnovers in the first half. In the second quarter, he sloppily attempted to swing the ball from a wing to Curry at the top of the arc, but Kris Dunn easily intercepted it and sped down the court for a dunk that came off the Nets, who simply looked on , from afar was watching him go.

In the second half, however, the Blazers were chasing the nets much more often.

https://nypost.com/2022/03/18/kevin-durant-saves-lethargic-nets-in-win-over-trail-blazers/ Kevin Durant saves lethargic Nets in victory over Trail Blazers

JOE HERNANDEZ

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