Kyrie Irving is still doing Kyrie Irving things on the basketball court. Since Kevin Durant sprained his MCL during an accidental collision with Jimmy Butler, Irving has played in seven out of eight games and is averaging 32.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.1 assists and two steals with just 2.3 turnovers per game on shooting splits of 48.8%/41.5%/88.4%.
However, his scoring exploits have not been enough, as the Nets have gone 2-6 in that span. Without his co-star, the Nets have again over-relied on Irving, as evidenced by him averaging 23.4 shots per game. That’s more shots than Nic Claxton and Seth Curry, who take 23 shots per game together as a duo, and they’re the next two leading scorers at 19.6 PPG and 17.1 PPG respectively.
Scoring for the team sees a precipitous drop afterwards with Joe Harris being the only other Net scoring in double figures at 10 points per game. It’s been an unfortunate turnaround for Brooklyn, considering that they went 14-1 in the 15 games before Durant’s injury.
Their latest game against the Pistons was an example of Durant’s missing offense not being enough. The 130-122 defeat, Brooklyn’s first time losing against the Pistons at home since April 1, 2018, saw Irving put up 40 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks while shooting 14 of 27 overall and 6 of 12 from three.
Irving was clearly efficient, and Claxton added 27 points and 13 rebounds of his own. Backup guard Edmond Sumner even added 24 points and five rebounds, but it still wasn’t enough. No one else on the team scored in double figures, which was in stark contrast to the Pistons, who saw eight out of the nine players that saw time on the court score at least 11 points.
Without Durant, Ben Simmons’ limitations have again also been put into the spotlight. He’s averaging six points, 5.9 rebounds and 8.3 assists during this span, but the Nets’ success during the 14-1 run was in part because Simmons was able to focus on defense and ball handling without pressure to score. He played for 20 minutes against the Pistons and registered 0 points, one rebound and seven assists before he left the game with knee soreness, much to the chagrin of coach Jacque Vaughn.
Fortunately, there’s still plenty of season left to play, and Durant may be returning soon. There’s hope that he may come back before the All-Star break, and the Nets recently made an announcement that he’s healing well.
The Nets have 10 more games to play before the break, so they’ll be hoping to string together a few wins while Durant continues to get himself back into shape. They’re still holding on to the fourth seed, but only seven games separate seeds 4-13 in the Eastern Conference. If they continue losing at this clip, they’ll again find themselves in the play-in spots with 24 games left to play after the All-Star weekend. Then things get dicey, especially if they again end up having to face a team like the Boston Celtics in the first around after the play-ins.