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Without Kevin Durant, Nets meet Magic in matchup of shorthanded teams

Sportsnaut
Dec 16, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash directs his team during the first half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 16, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash directs his team during the first half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant’s recent production is incredible for Steve Nash to witness, but the heavy minutes are also unsustainable for the Brooklyn Nets’ coach.

With those factors in mind, Durant will sit out Saturday night due to a sore right ankle when the Nets host the Orlando Magic in a matchup of undermanned teams.

Durant was questionable with the injury Tuesday when he totaled a triple-double of 34 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in a wild 131-129 overtime win over the Toronto Raptors. That game saw Durant play 48 minutes and he has played at least 38 minutes in his past nine games, raising his season average to 37 minutes — his most since averaging 38.5 for the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2013-14.

“It’s been incredible,” Nash said. “But at the same time, we know that’s not safe or sustainable to continue to lean on him like that. There’s going to be a lot of consideration, and we’ll have to find a way to give him some breaks.”

Durant, who is averaging 37.5 points over his past four games, scored 13 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter of a 114-105 win over Philadelphia on Thursday.

Nash is leaning heavily on Durant because seven players are in the COVID-19 protocol and will be so again Saturday. Brooklyn will be without starters LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre’ Bembry, James Harden along with reserves Bruce Brown, Jevon Carter, James Johnson and Paul Millsap.

Besides Durant, the Nets are resting Patty Mills, who has scored 44 points in the past two games and played at least 30 minutes in eight straight games.

Mills also could be joined on the sidelines by young players Nic Claxton and David Duke Jr. Claxton is listed as questionable with a sore left wrist after taking a hard fall in Thursday’s 114-105 win over the Philadelphia 76ers and Duke Jr. is listed as probable with left hip soreness.

The Nets signed Langston Galloway Thursday and are expected to use a hardship waiver on veteran James Ennis, who was with Orlando last season. Ennis could make his debut Saturday while playing in a rotation that includes rookies Kessler Edwards, Day’ron Sharpe and Cam Thomas.

Whatever the lineup looks like, Brooklyn can match its longest winning streak of the season and win for the 19th time in 24 games.

Orlando is on its second seven-game losing streak this season and is 1-14 since a 104-98 win over the New York Knicks on Nov. 17. Orlando’s skid started when it blew a 19-point lead in a 115-113 loss in Brooklyn on Nov. 19, but its starting lineup will look different from the first visit to the Nets.

Orlando’s starting lineup for the last game in Brooklyn was Mohamed Bamba, Cole Anthony, rookie Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter. Only Wagner is assured of suiting up on Saturday after scoring 27 points in Friday’s 115-105 home loss to Miami.

Along with Terrence Ross and Moritz Wagner, Bamba and Ignas Brazdeikis were placed in the health and safety protocols Friday. Suggs is out with a fractured thumb, Anthony sat out Friday’s game with an ankle sprain and Carter exited in the second quarter with a knee injury.

“We constantly talk about this is bigger than the basketball game,” Orlando coach Jamahi Mosley said. “Understanding our health and safety is the most important thing for these guys. Not just in the COVID situation, but their health on and off the court.”

With a depleted roster, Orlando used hardship exemptions to add Aleem Ford, Hassani Gravett, B.J. Johnson and Admiral Schofield from its G League team.

–Field Level Media