Nets hoping to build chemistry with Kyrie Irving at Trail Blazers

National Sports

In their first game with Kyrie Irving, it took a big comeback for the Brooklyn Nets to win.

The Nets are hoping their second game with Irving goes smoother Monday night when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers for a makeup game.

The game was originally slated for Dec. 23 but postponed due to Brooklyn not having enough players to field a roster because of its coronavirus outbreak. Irving was in the protocol at the time but probably would not have played the originally scheduled game since it was slated for six days after the Nets announced he could play road games in places that do not require a performer to be vaccinated.

The Nets are 2-4 in their past six games and both wins required some heavy lifting and good bounces.

On Wednesday, the Nets rallied from a 19-point deficit when Irving scored 12 of his 22 in the fourth quarter of a 129-121 win at Indiana. On Sunday afternoon, Brooklyn blew a 12-point lead, did not score in the final four minutes of regulation and escaped with a 121-119 overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs when rookie Cam Thomas hit the game-winning shot with 1.4 seconds left.

“We didn’t let go,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “We could have dropped our heads at times but our defense and our energy stayed with it. Wasn’t always perfect but it was better.”

Kevin Durant totaled 28 points in 43 minutes and is averaging 30.5 games in six contests since returning from the protocol. He also played over 40 minutes for the second time since coming back and is looking forward to the stretch where the Nets play six of their next eight on the road as Irving is not allowed to play home games.

“We definitely are a better team, way better team and it’s definitely gonna give us a lift,” Durant said. “So I’m looking forward to it. We got a couple games on the road, an opportunity for us to build our chemistry.”

Portland will play its fourth straight game without Damian Lillard, who is dealing with an abdomen injury that also cost him five games Nov. 30-Dec. 8. The Trail Blazers are 3-6 without Lillard so far and are coming off their best defensive showing of the season.

On Sunday, the Blazers allowed their fewest points all season when they held the Sacramento Kings to 38.8 percent from the field in a wire-to-wire 103-88 win. It ended a streak of 16 consecutive games of allowing at least 100 points and it marked the seventh time Portland allowed under 40 percent shooting.

“I told the guys before the game to just have fun and compete,” Portland center Jusuf Nurkic said after totaling 14 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists. “Everybody touched the ball and moved the ball well. I think we did a great job, shared the ball and everybody was having fun.”

Portland heads into Monday with three wins in its past 13 home games but lately is getting stellar showings from Anfernee Simons. Simons scored 31 points Sunday and is averaging 29 points in his past four contests.

Besides Lillard, the Blazers are unlikely to be without Norman Powell. Powell is averaging 23.7 points in his past three games but was placed in the protocol Sunday and replaced in the starting lineup by Ben McLemore.

–Field Level Media

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