When Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are out, the Brooklyn Nets are experiencing mixed results.
The Nets are hoping to get both of their stars back Sunday night when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Nets are 1-2 in the games both sat out. They rested the duo on the second night of a back-to-back Dec. 28 and took an overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, and the stars have been out for the last two games due to differing non-injury reasons.
Durant has missed the past three games due to COVID-19 safety protocols, though he did not test positive. Irving has sat out the last two games for personal reasons, and according to the New York Post, Irving sat out because he is upset about Wednesday's attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
It seems possible Durant could return to face his former team, and the Nets are hopeful Irving will return, though his status was less clear as of Friday.
"Kevin, I believe, is still on track for Sunday," Nets coach Steve Nash said. "So, we just have to just hope his tests continue to be negative and everything stays as is, it appears he'll be ready to go Sunday night."
If Durant returns, he will be playing for the first time since scoring 28 points in last Sunday's one-point loss to the Washington Wizards. Irving scored 29 in Tuesday's 130-96 rout of the Utah Jazz and the Nets split a back-to-back with Philadelphia and Memphis in his absence.
The Nets posted a 122-109 victory Thursday in the first game Irving missed when Joe Harris scored 28. But they were unable to complete a comeback from a 22-point first-half deficit in Friday's 115-110 loss in Memphis. This was despite 43 points from Caris LeVert, who is averaging 29.6 points in his last three games.
"It's awesome, this is nothing new for Caris," Harris said. "He's obviously had a ton of big games before, but he really had it cooking today."
Oklahoma City has yet to score more than 111 points or allow more than 118 points. The Thunder dropped three of their first four games but are 3-1 on a five-game trip.
The Thunder followed up a 111-110 win in New Orleans by pulling away for a 101-89 victory over the New York Knicks after trailing by nine through the first quarter. Besides setting a season-low for points allowed, Oklahoma City allowed a season-low 35.8 percent shooting, and that came after it allowed the Miami Heat to shoot 56.8 percent on Monday and New Orleans to shoot 49.4 percent Wednesday.
"I thought we did a great job, not only with the game plan but carrying over some of the things we learned from the New Orleans game," Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. "In that game, it took a minute for us to kind of find that five-man defense against New Orleans and I thought we got to it a lot sooner tonight and really came in with a high level of focus from the jump."
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander collected season highs of 25 points and 10 rebounds Friday to go along with seven assists. He is averaging 19.8 points per game this season, and he scored 12 points in the third quarter Friday when the Thunder gained control.
Hamidou Diallo added 23 as a reserve to help Oklahoma City overcome a quiet night from its starting frontcourt of Darius Bazley and Lugentz Dort, who combined for nine points on 4 of 18 shooting.