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Injuries to make an impact as Nets, Suns meet

Jan 15, 2023; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) reacts during the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The status of Kyrie Irving might not be known until close to game time when the Brooklyn Nets visit the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

Irving is bothered by right calf soreness and was scratched prior to Tuesday’s 106-98 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the opener of a five-game road trip.

Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn was hopeful that Irving wouldn’t require an MRI exam and doesn’t expect a long-term absence.

In fact, Vaughn is holding out hope that Irving might suit up against Phoenix, which has dropped 12 of its last 14 games.

“Just reported a little tightness,” Vaughn said of Irving’s injury. “It’s essentially just day-to-day. … Hopefully this is short-term.”

Irving’s absence against the Spurs also marked the third straight game without Kevin Durant (knee). Brooklyn fell to 0-3 since the loss of Durant.

The Nets scored just 15 points in the first quarter against the Spurs and 17 in the third. They committed 21 turnovers and were a woeful 3 of 23 (13 percent) from 3-point range.

The setback without their two stars reminded some Brooklyn players of last season.

There was a point when both Durant and Irving were out of the lineup and the third star, James Harden, was dejected about the situation. Irving recently took a shot at the now-departed Harden and teammate Nic Claxton delivered his own after the loss to the Spurs.

“Last year … it was kind of a toxic environment,” Claxton told reporters. “We didn’t know if everybody wanted to be here at the time. This year, there’s no divide between everybody that’s out there. We’re going to figure it out.”

T.J. Warren scored a team-high 19 points in the loss to San Antonio.

The Suns are in a deep freefall that is tied to the absence of guard Devin Booker, who remains sidelined with a groin injury.

Booker has missed the last 11 games and the Suns are just 3-13 without their star this season.

Phoenix is opening a five-game homestand after being annihilated 136-106 by the host Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.

In addition to Booker, the Suns were without Chris Paul (hip), Cameron Payne (foot) and lost Josh Okogie (nose) during the game. They were also without Cameron Johnson (knee), who was injured on Nov. 4, but he is set to make his return on Thursday.

“We’ve just got to regroup and go back home,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “This has been a tough, tough stretch for us on a number of fronts. The wins and losses. The injuries. And we lose (Okogie) and he was playing his tail off. So you just pack it up, go home and get ready for the next one.”

Paul is questionable and in danger of missing his sixth straight game. Payne, his backup, will sit out for the seventh straight game.

The loss to the Grizzlies was one of two blowouts on a four-game trip. Phoenix was routed 126-97 by the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 11.

Mikal Bridges scored 21 points and Deandre Ayton had 18 against Memphis. The Suns were outscored 68-41 in the second half.

Phoenix swept two meetings from the Nets last season. Booker averaged 32.5 points.

–Field Level Media

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