PREVIEW: Phoenix Suns await Brooklyn Nets in battle of winning streaks

By Field Level Media
February 15, 2021; Sacramento, California, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Jeff Green (8) dunks the basketball against Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III (35) during the third quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets will try to make it two road victories in two nights, both without Kevin Durant, when they arrive in the desert Tuesday to face the Phoenix Suns.

Durant missed Monday’s 136-125 victory at Sacramento on Monday because of a mild left hamstring strain. Brooklyn overcame the challenge by making a franchise-record 27 3-pointers. The total was two shy of the NBA record set by the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this season.

The Suns will be up for a good challenge. Phoenix is on a season-best six-game winning streak and has won nine of its last 10 games.

The Nets’ Jeff Green started in place of Durant on Monday and scored 13 points in 24 minutes, but it was others who made the magic happen. Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 40 points and James Harden added 29 as the Nets won their third consecutive game, following a three-game losing streak.

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“We’re having some fun swinging the basketball to one another, just playing off continuous drives, playing off the defense and doing the right thing,” Irving said on the YES Network broadcast. “So it felt good.”

Irving was 9 of 11 from 3-point range, while Harden went 6 of 10 from distance. The Nets went 27 of 47 (57.4 percent) from deep as a team with seven different players making a 3-pointer. The Nets led by as many as 28 before the Kings closed the gap with a late rally.

Durant had just returned from a three-game absence because of COVID-19 contact tracing, with Brooklyn losing two of those contests. He has played just one game since Feb. 6, scoring 20 points in a victory Saturday against his former team, the Golden State Warriors.

Nets big man DeAndre Jordan missed Saturday’s victory for personal reasons but returned Monday to score 10 points with eight rebounds in 27 minutes.

“We’re not the only team that’s experiencing this, that’s gone through a number of difficult situations,” the Nets’ Joe Harris said Monday. “It’s just about being flexible and resilient to what’s going on, and just trying to make the most of what we have currently.”

The Suns know the routine as well. Phoenix’s leading scorer Devin Booker missed four games with his own hamstring issue late last month, returning just before the current winning streak started. Point guard Chris Paul also missed a game last week with a sore hamstring.

The Suns will enter off a 109-90 victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday and will be playing the finale in what has been a successful seven-game homestand.

Booker scored 27 points Sunday, with 17 of those coming in the first quarter when he was 8 of 10 from the field. Paul had 12 points and nine assists, while Mikal Bridges had 21 points.

“Guys on this team know their role and they know what they have to do, from the head of the snake to the tail,” said Suns big man Deandre Ayton, who had 10 points and 13 rebounds against the Magic. “Everybody knows what they have to do to make this team a better team.”

Booker has thrived during the run of home games with 28.3 points per contest on 54.7 percent shooting.

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–Field Level Media