Crazy season catching up with Nets in first-round NBA playoffs series against Celtics, News NBA – Flix Sport Media

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Kevin Durant returned from his MCL injury on March 3. From that point until the end of the regular season, he averaged 38.6 minutes per game for the Nets. That was the second-highest per game average in the NBA.

After missing much of the season due to his COVID-19 vaccination status and local COVID vaccine ordinances, Kyrie Irving played in the final 10 games of the Nets’ regular season. Irving led the NBA in minutes per game (40.6 per game) in that span. Durant was No. 2 in the league over the final 10 regular season games (40.0 per game).

But the Nets needed every win in those final weeks to secure the No. 7 seed in the NBA Play-In Tournament.

Durant and Irving both played 42 minutes in the Nets’ win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Play-In Tournament and have played at least 40 minutes in each of Brooklyn’s three playoff losses to Boston. Irving has also been fasting while observing Ramadan this month.

Nets head coach Steve Nash believes all of the late-season minutes — and Irving’s fasting — have impacted his stars during the Boston series.

“They’ve both got to be tired,” he said. “Kyrie’s fasting and Kevin’s had to play 40-plus minutes for five, six weeks after missing six, seven weeks. We needed him to play 40 minutes or we wouldn’t be in the playoffs or we’d be 10th in the play-in.

“I’m sure that’s taken a big toll on Kevin. He’s carried a huge burden for us for weeks on end. Kyrie as well, since he’s been playing home and on the road and fasting; it can’t be easy. I go play tennis and I haven’t eaten I feel like I’m going to fall over, so I can’t imagine how he feels in an NBA playoff game.

“I commend how hard he plays considering, and how much minutes they both had to endure just for us to be in this position with all the injuries we’ve had this year and all the interruptions. I feel for him. I feel for those guys.”

Will that be an accepted excuse for the Nets’ no-show through the first three games of the series? Ultimately, only Nets owner Joe Tsai knows the answer to that question.

But the entire organization – from GM Sean Marks on down – will be under scrutiny if Brooklyn loses in four or five games to the Celtics.

Is it fair to judge Nash on a season that’s featured absences due to injury (Durant), vaccine status (Irving) or a desire to be traded (James Harden)?

We can all have our own opinions on the subject, but what really matters is how Tsai and, presumably, Irving, Durant and Marks feel about it.
Apr 2, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) dribbles past Atlanta Hawks guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (7) during the first quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Irving’s absence was obviously a result of his decision to forgo a COVID-19 vaccine. Local ordinances prevented him from playing in Nets home games. Initially, the organization decided that it didn’t want Irving to play solely in road games. Later, the Nets changed their minds and allowed Irving to play solely in road games.

Shortly before the end of the regular season, New York City Mayor Eric Adams altered the local ordinance to allow athletes of NYC-based teams to play at home. In all, Irving played in 29 of the Nets’ 82 regular-season games.

Nash acknowledged that Irving’s absence was a contributing factor behind the Nets’ lack of cohesion for much of the year. The Harden trade, Ben Simmons’ absence and Durant’s injury were among the others.

“We started the season with one group, we had a major trade, we have a few guys released, we had Kyrie’s absence for much of the season, we had Kevin being out for five weeks,” Nash said before Game 3. “We’ve had very few pockets with everyone ready to play. It’s probably 10 or 12 games if you added it all up. That’s what I’ve said all year is part of the challenge. Just trying to find some continuity. This is an ingredient to our challenge.

“That is not an excuse, we relish the opportunity. We were very close to winning Game 1 and had a great half in Game 2 but fell on the wrong side of it. I think it’s about us continuing to believe, continuing to work and compete and try to get better every day and give ourselves a position to have a chance to win. If one or two thing break for us, we are in a different position.”

Nash obviously said that prior to the Nets’ Game 3 loss. Now, Brooklyn needs to do something that’s never happened in the history of the league to avoid a first-round loss to Boston.

No NBA team has rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game series. Entering this year’s playoffs, NBA teams who were up 3-0 are 143-0 in those series, per Land Of Basketball.com.

If Brooklyn doesn’t at least show some resistance, there will be legitimate questions about the futures of many in the organization, including Nash.

For what it’s worth, neither Durant nor Irving wanted to use fatigue as an excuse for his performance against Boston.

“I feel good playing,” Durant said. “I’m not winded; my body doesn’t hurt. I wouldn’t blame it on that.”

Here’s what Irving said when asked about it: “My legs feel OK. I think kind of in the flow of everything right now, end of the season, also fasting and just trying to find the balance there. Those are things that contribute to my day to day. But when I show up to the facility or the arena, there are no excuses that I have for me being ready or prepared. I do everything I can to make sure that I’m spiritually grounded and I’m respecting my faith. But also knowing that when I step into this building, I don’t want any excuses on my name. I just told everybody that’s a journey with God that I respect. But in terms of my play and stuff like that, just gotta do better. Just gotta do better. Don’t want to sit up here and be like ‘Hey this or that.’ Just gotta be better.”

If he, his teammates and his coaches aren’t better on Monday, the Nets will enter the offseason with some tough questions to answer.
SIMMONS BACK ON MONDAY?

Nash said Simmons made it through a workout/3-on-3 scrimmage on Saturday without setback. If he gets through Sunday’s practice without a setback, Simmons remains on track to play in Game 4 on Monday.

Nash acknowledged that, but stopped short of saying Simmons would suit up.

“I think it’s possible but I’m not sure. Like I said before, it’s not a normal return to play having been off for nine months and being injured as long as he has been at the back end of this, going on two months now I think if I’m not mistaken or more,” Nash said. “So it’s not just, he got through three workouts and he’s ready to play. There’s a lot of bigger picture, bigger context — how he’s feeling, how able he would be to adapt to the environment. It’s a little different than playing a game that’s in the middle of the regular season, so I think there’s a few factors at play to evaluate when he’s ready to play.”

Speaking before Game 3, Nash said the state of the series wouldn’t play a major factor in whether Simmons plays. So, the Nets’ loss on Saturday won’t be a deciding factor in Simmons’ Game 4 status.

“I think it’s really a matter if Ben’s ready to play, whether it’s 3-0 or 2-1 or whatever,” Nash said before Game 3. “The score of the series isn’t as big of a factor as whether he’s ready to play.”

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