On Tuesday, the Nets were given a much-needed rest day, even though it included a nearly four-hour flight from Portland to Chicago, where they meet the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls at the United Center on Wednesday night. It was a day off between a set of coast-to-coast, back-to-back that takes them from Brooklyn to Portland to Chicago and back to Brooklyn to meet Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
Coach Steve Nash blamed fatigue for the Nets’ poor performance in their defeat to the Trail Blazers, which lacked four starters, and in fact, the wear and tear on their condensed program should be the main consideration right now for the Nets (25-14). Kevin Durant played nearly 85 minutes in the Nets’ last two games, and Nash said he expects to play against the Bulls (27-11), who have won 10 of their last 11 games after beating the Pistons at home Tuesday night. .
“We find him a game to miss somewhere coming,” Nash said of Durant’s load management. “From a competitive point of view, it’s hard to limit his minutes because he wants to play, especially in matches like this. [in Portland], where we have a chance to win. We need to find games where we can sit him out and rest him. ”
Durant ruled out complete fatigue as a factor in the Nets’ loss to the Blazers. “So what?” Durant said after the loss. “Championship teams are going through a bit of adversity … I’m not coming up with any excuses for no flights, our schedule.”
As for whether he could welcome a free night during the current stretch of five matches in seven nights, Durant was emphatic. “No, let me die out there,” Durant said. With a smile, he added, “Nah, I’m just playing. I’m not worried. When the coach wants to give me a day, I’ll support it. But I’m not looking for one. I’m just going to play until they tell me, that I’m sitting out. If I have to play 40, what then? I have to play. ”
In Portland, the Nets rested James Harden (hyperextended left knee), though Nash described it as a safety precaution and expects him to play in Chicago. But their injury report on Tuesday still listed Harden as questionable along with Nic Claxton (tight left hind thigh) and Kyrie Irving (left ankle sprain).
The Nets’ “Big 3” can still play together for the second time against the Bulls since Irving returned to the team as a part-time road game player. Irving scored 22 while playing more than 39 minutes against the Blazers.
But in the fourth quarter, he rolled his left ankle as Nassir Little dived for a loose ball and knocked Irving awkwardly. Irving called it a “ruthless” game and insisted he was good at receiving the Bulls, but his condition withstands surveillance.
Assessing where he is after playing two games, Irving said: “First I have to catch my wind, 39 minutes tonight. Get my legs under me in the fourth quarter … It felt like I was making a couple of good pull, but now it’s just getting back into the NBA action of athletics and catching up with that speed. That’s really what it is at this point. “