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Banged-up Nets host Spurs with playoff seeding on the line

·3 min read
Brooklyn Nets' James Harden (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The next time the Brooklyn Nets go on the road will be for Game 3 of their first-round playoff series.

In the meantime, they will hope to avoid any further injury issues to their stars Wednesday night when they host the San Antonio Spurs in the first of their three home games to end the regular season.

Brooklyn (45-24) is looking to win its third straight following a four-game losing streak but may be without Kyrie Irving. Irving sustained a facial contusion in the third quarter of Tuesday's 115-107 win over the Chicago Bulls when he was elbowed in the face by Nikola Vucevic as they jockeyed for a rebound.

Irving was down on the ground for several minutes before being helped back to the locker room. The star guard had no symptoms of a concussion, coach Steve Nash said, but X-rays to assess the extent of any injuries were inconclusive.

Without Irving for the final 22 minutes, the Nets produced one of their most balanced showings of the season by placing eight players in double figures.

Kevin Durant led the Nets with 21 points and eight assists while Joe Harris added 17 and Bruce Brown contributed 15 and 10 rebounds after sustaining a nasal fracture in practice on Monday.

"I feel like everyone's been chipping in the whole season and this is another night," Durant said. "We got eight in double figures, everybody played extremely well on the defensive side of the ball and we got a solid win."

Irving might not play but the Nets will re-evaluate Wednesday morning.

Durant could sit since he has only played both ends of a back-to-back once, but after Tuesday's game, Nash said the Nets would make that determination on Wednesday.

The Athletic reported that James Harden will attempt to return from his hamstring injury Wednesday night. The nine-time All-Star has missed 18 straight games, but Nash said Harden was feeling fine following a high-intensity workout on Tuesday.

While the health of their stars is the top priority, there is a chance the Nets could still get the top seed in the Eastern Conference as they enter play Wednesday two games behind the Philadelphia 76ers. Brooklyn also is one game ahead of the third-place Milwaukee Bucks.

San Antonio (33-35) is trying to return to the playoffs after its streak of 22 straight postseason appearances was snapped last season. The Spurs hold the 10th spot in the Western Conference and are 2 1/2 games ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans.

San Antonio is looking to win consecutive games for the first time since a three-game winning streak April 22-26. After that streak, the Spurs dropped five straight, including a three-point overtime loss to the Boston Celtics when they blew a 32-point lead.

Since the five-game skid, the Spurs have won two of their past three games and Monday's 146-125 rout of Milwaukee was among their more impressive showings of the season.

On Monday, the Spurs set a team record by scoring 87 points in the first half and shooting 59.6 percent from the field. San Antonio also hit 17 3-pointers.

"It was a good night against a hell of a team, a championship-caliber team, well-coached," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "We have to be just thrilled with it, but not too satisfied. We are still in a big battle."

Like the Nets, San Antonio is coming off a game that featured balanced scoring as seven players reached double figures. DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs with 23 points, Dejounte Murray added 21 while Patty Mills and Keldon Johnson contributed 20 apiece.

--Field Level Media

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