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Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry in spotlight as Nets visit Warriors

Jan 29, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) controls the ball against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) in the first quarter at the Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s likely to be Curry vs. Curry, but definitely not Durant vs. Green, when the Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors steal the national basketball spotlight Sunday night in San Francisco.

Billed since the schedule was announced as Kevin Durant’s first appearance in Chase Center with a live audience, the Nets instead will have to rely heavily once again on Kyrie Irving as they attempt to win a second straight on the road.

Durant was dealt by the Warriors to the Nets following the 2019 NBA Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors, having helped the franchise win two titles in three years.

After sitting out the 2019-20 season with an Achilles injury suffered in the Finals, Durant visited San Francisco in February 2021 and saw a video tribute before contributing 20 points to a 134-117 win. But no fans were in attendance because of COVID restrictions.

The Warriors had the video queued for the fans last January, but Durant didn’t make that trip, out with a strained left knee.

The 34-year-old has already been ruled out of Sunday’s game, which will be his sixth straight absence due to a right MCL strain that’s expected to keep him sidelined at least two more weeks.

Brooklyn lost its first four games after Durant suffered the injury Jan. 8 at Miami, then finally got into the win column with a 117-106 triumph at Utah on Friday night. Irving exploded for 48 points in the win.

Seth Curry was among three of Irving’s supporting cast who scored in double figures, chipping in with 10 off the bench on the eve of a matchup with his brother, Warriors star Stephen Curry.

Irving noted Friday’s win might not have occurred without a key late 3-pointer by his sharpshooting teammate.

“I trusted Seth in that corner three,” he said. “Obviously it’s one win, but when you own a bit of a losing streak, everything can feel exacerbated, everything could feel like it’s pressure. But I feel like we’re rising to the challenge, and tonight we proved it on the road.”

If the matchup comes off, Seth’s older brother Stephen will enter Sunday’s 13th reunion with a significant advantage in points per game (26.1-10.1) and team wins (9-3) in their previous career head-to-heads.

The Golden State standout did not play when the clubs met in Brooklyn in December, a game in which the Warriors also held out Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson on the final day of an Eastern trip. Durant had 23 points and Seth Curry 12 in a 143-113 blowout in which Irving also was sidelined.

The Warriors had a similar “throwaway” game at the end of a trip Friday, but that one had a surprising outcome as eight players contributed 3-pointers to a shocking 120-114 win at Cleveland that Curry, Wiggins, Thompson and Draymond Green all watched.

Jordan Poole led the way with 32 points, but the unexpected contributions of Ty Jerome (22 points), Donte DiVincenzo (17) and Anthony Lamb (four 3-pointers) — as well as the timely returns of JaMychal Green (13 points) and Jonathan Kuminga (10) — allowed the Warriors to cap a 3-2 trip.

Having missed 14 straight games with an illness and then a leg infection, JaMychal Green credited Kerr for some simple advice before the game.

“Steve told me to just, ‘Go out there and play free. I know you missed a few games, I know you might make mistakes, but just play through it,’ ” Green said. “I needed to hear that.”

Stephen Curry, Wiggins, Thompson and Draymond Green are all expected back for Sunday’s game.

–Field Level Media

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