PREVIEW: Brooklyn Nets hoping to have James Harden back against Detroit Pistons

By Field Level Media
Mar 23, 2021; Portland, Oregon, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) warms up before a game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets saw what they looked like without their Big 3. They don’t want to make it a habit.

Utah pounded the star-less Nets 118-88 on Wednesday. Brooklyn could have one of its top players back in action at Detroit on Friday.

James Harden was sidelined by a nagging neck injury. Kyrie Irving is away from the team for personal reasons, and Kevin Durant is in the final stages of rehabbing a left hamstring strain.

Irving and Durant are not expected to suit up until next week. Harden is questionable to play against the Pistons.

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“I’m hoping it’s short term,” coach Steve Nash said of Harden’s injury. “To be honest, I’m sure James would’ve wanted to play (in Utah). … It was the smartest and safest decision to protect him from himself and take him out of the lineup because he’s struggling. It’s pretty sore. I hope that he’ll be back next game, but we’ll have to see day by day here.”

Reserve guard Landry Shamet missed the game due to an ankle sprain, and Nash also rested Blake Griffin. Shamet could suit up on Friday, and Griffin is expected to play against his former team. Detroit bought out Griffin’s contract and placed him on waivers, allowing Griffin to sign with a contender.

Without those players, the Nets trailed by 21 points after one quarter and never recovered.

“We don’t take anything from this, missing our three top players, missing Blake,” Nash said. “Once the game got away early, we were able to rest some of our other rotation guys. So, we don’t take anything from this game except for the opportunity for young guys to develop and play. So, we’ll move on to Detroit and hopefully have some guys back to play.”

In the first meeting at Detroit on Feb. 9, the Pistons surprised the Nets 122-111 behind Jerami Grant’s 32 points. The Pistons gave them another stiff challenge in Brooklyn on March 13, but the Nets prevailed 100-95. Harden prevented Detroit from pulling off another upset by scoring half of his 24 points in the fourth quarter.

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The rebuilding Pistons agreed late Wednesday to trade one of their starting guards, Delon Wright, to Sacramento for guard Cory Joseph and two second-round picks. Wright made five steals in Detroit’s 116-111 loss at Indiana on Wednesday.

Indiana made 15 3-point attempts, including five in the fourth quarter. The Pistons finished the game with 11 3-point makes.

“Three-point shooting is such a big part of the game today,” coach Dwane Casey said. “They made four more than we did, and that was the difference in the game. We beat them in other statistical areas.”

Without Wright, Casey will likely rely on the duo of Dennis Smith Jr. and rookie Saben Lee to run the point until lottery pick Killian Hayes is ready to return from a hip injury.

The Nets’ defense will be focused on stopping Grant, who is averaging 27 points against them this season. Grant had 29 points against the Pacers, but he’s made only three of his last 13 3-point attempts over the last two games.

–Field Level Media