Kevin Durant made his first appearance on a court after his MCL injury. The superstar had a sprained MCL after his teammate Bruce Brown fell on his leg in a game against the New Orleans Pelicans on January 15. The Slim Reaper came back and got into the flow of things like he was never injured. He had 31 points in his first game back!
Unfortunately for Durant, he had to play against the 1 seeded Miami Heat. The Heat was without their superstars Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry but we all know what Heat culture is. The Heat have won all season with undrafted players and bench players starting for them. The culture established in Miami has ensured that the next man up always delivers.
Durant had very little help offensively with Bruce Brown Jr. and Patty Mills being the only other Nets players with double-digit scoring (21 and 14 points). The Heat on the other hand had a 30 point, 11 rebound game from Bam Adebayo and 3 other players with 20+ points. Max Strus had 21 points and 5 rebounds, Caleb Martin had 22 points and 5 rebounds and Tyler Herro had 27 points and 8 assists.
The Nets led by Durant entered the second half with a 7 point lead. But the Heat’s tenacity was impossible to overcome and the Heat took their first lead in the game in the 3rd quarter after a Caleb Martin finger roll put them up 76-74. From then the Heat put constant pressure on the Nets defensively to force turnovers and make them take tough shots. The Heat never lost the lead since that point as well.
The Nets remain at the 8th spot with the loss. It looks like they will be in the Play-In game at the end of the regular season. Without all three superstars – Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant – on the floor, the Nets have no chance to go deep into the Playoffs. That is because the Eastern conference is extremely competitive this season and it will take all three of them to have their best performances to win in a 7-game series against any of the teams in the East.