Nets’ Kyrie Irving disappears on stretch against Bucks

Certainly Kyrie Irving didn’t wait nearly an entire season to play home games only to disappear on the track.

Irving didn’t score in the last nine minutes of action – four minutes of regulation plus overtime – and missed his only three shots in that span on Thursday night as the Nets watched a nine-point lead turn into a heartbreaking 120-119 Defeat turned Milwaukee Bucks. He finished with 25 points, second to Kevin Durant’s team-best 26.

“I was following the flow of the game, and we went to Kevin quite a lot and involved him,” said Irving, who still attempted 22 team-high shots. “Sometimes I felt like I was using myself as bait. I think if you go into the future you probably won’t see that anymore.

It was Irving’s third home game since Mayor Eric Adams approved the exemption for unvaccinated athletes and entertainers to perform indoors. The novelty was felt when a few fans chanted “Kyrie’s home!” when he stepped to the free throw line early in the game.

“It’s just one of those games that ended up getting funky,” Irving said, “but we have to end it in regulation.”

Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving didn’t score in the last nine minutes against the Bucks.
NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets could have used a defensive stopper like Ben Simmons in the final minutes of the tight game.

Unfortunately, the point guard still doesn’t practice — “He really just passes the ball” while teammates do drills, said teammate Bruce Brown — and there’s little precedent for an NBA player making his season debut so close to the finish line ( or in the playoffs) and being a difference maker.

“If he comes, that’s going to be a card everyone’s going to look forward to,” Nets guard Patty Mills said before the game, “and welcome with open arms because we’re going to be very powerful with that ace in our back pocket.”

But coach Steve Nash just can’t bet on the possibility should the ace turn out to be wild.

“Obviously we’d love to have Ben play for us,” said coach Steve Nash. “Hopefully we will get him back. At the same time, we can’t put our feet in the air because we don’t know when or if it’s going to happen. We just have to play what’s in front of us; with what is the group available today.”

Center Blake Griffin has not played for the 11th time in the last 17. Power forward James Johnson averages nearly 18 minutes per game during this stretch. Why weren’t the minutes split more evenly between the greats? Because they don’t play the same position. LaMarcus Aldridge has not played for the 12th straight game – nine inactives and three on managerial decisions.

“Blake’s best position is by far the 5,” Nash said, pushing any explanation past the simplest. Nets’ Kyrie Irving disappears on stretch against Bucks


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