Kevin Durant expected to return as Nets battle Pelicans

Kevin Durant is expected to return for the Nets against the Pelicans.|Art or Photo Credit: AP

The Nets have listed Kevin Durant as probable for Wednesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Durant has missed Brooklyn’s last 23 games due to a hamstring strain. In the 19 games he’s played this season, Durant has averaged 29.0 points, 7.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 52.4 percent overall and 43.4 percent from 3-point range.

Brooklyn has seen some changes since Durant last played — adding veterans Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge for starters — but he’s also returning to a familiar sight: a transcendent Kyrie Irving.

With his 40 points on 15-of-28 shooting against the Knicks on Monday, Irving posted his third 40-point game in the 10 games he’s played since the All-Star break. During this stretch, he’s averaging 30.0 points per game on 52.1 percent shooting.

Irving also recorded three consecutive double-doubles last week, including a 15-assist game against the Bulls on Sunday that was the second-highest single game total of his career.

“He’s a veteran,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash after Monday’s win over the Knicks. “He knows how to apply the appropriate amount of aggressiveness and do the right things. He knows that he’s going to have to put pressure on the defense whether it’s scoring or getting in the guts. He was obviously sensational. He’s just an amazing basketball player. He found a way to keep our team in it for big stretches, and our guys played really well when he was out and gave us a lift. Then he was able to come in and close. A brilliant performance and really gutsy from everybody.”

JEFF GREEN’S GAME-WINNERS

Up five with a minute to go Monday night, the Nets found themselves tied at 112 in the final seconds. Jeff Green’s two free throws with 3.7 seconds left lifted Brooklyn to the win.

“I'm going to be honest, I think they just tried to get the ball out of Ky’s hands,” said Green. “Joe (Harris) got open. Joe had a great look. Joe had an amazing look. Hit the back rim and we made a play on the offensive rebound. (Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot) I believe was the one to go up and tried to tip it. Came right to me and I just tried to make a play at the rim.”

Green finished with 23 points, matching his season high. It was his third consecutive 20-point game and fifth in Brooklyn’s 14 games since the All-Star break.

“Jeff is sort of your consummate professional,” said Harris. “He has sort of seen and done it all in his tenure in the NBA, and it’s no different with us. There are some nights where it might not look like he’s showing up on the stat sheet, but he does all the little stuff all the time, and then when we need him to come up for us offensively, he typically does. He has been a huge boost for us here lately, and he does all the little stuff on top of it, too, which is winning basketball at the end of the day.”

STATUS REPORT

While Kevin Durant is listed as probable to return, Landry Shamet, Tyler Johnson and James Harden are listed as out for Wednesday’s game against New Orleans.

The Nets announced on Tuesday that Harden has a right hamstring strain and will be re-evaluated in approximately 10 days. Harden left last Wednesday’s game against Houston with tightness in the hamstring, missed games against Charlotte and Chicago, then returned Monday only to leave the game after four minutes.

ABOUT THE PELICANS

The Pelicans are 22-27 and in 11th place in the Western Conference, in the mix for a spot in the 7 through 10 play-in. New Orleans is eighth in the NBA in offensive rating (115.7) and fifth in field goal percentage (48.4). The Pelicans get to the line a lot, ranking third with 25.1 free throw attempts per game, so they’re fourth in free throws made per game (18.4) despite shooting just 73.4 percent from the line, 29th in the league. New Orleans is third in rebounds per game (46.4) and first in rebound percentage (53.0), first in both offensive rebounds per game (11.5) and offensive rebound percentage (30.8). With that, the Pelicans are second in second chance points (15.0) and third in points in the paint (53.7). New Orleans is 28th in defensive rating (115.5), allowing the most opponent 3-pointers in the league (15.0), while ranking 27th in 3-point attempts allowed (38.6) and 29th in 3-point percentage allowed (38.8). Zion Williamson made the All-Star Game in his second season and averages 26.4 points per game on 62.4 percent shooting, plus 7.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Brandon Ingram averages 23.8 points, 49.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game.