Battle In BK: Will Nets All-Star’s Injury Change Celtics’ Chances?

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Jeff Green #8, Kevin Durant #7, and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets watch the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers

The Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets both, respectively, kicked their weeks off with two disappointing losses — but, for the Nets — the concern surrounding one of its future Hall of Fame stars is easily their most dire threat to date, this season.

Kevin Durant, who netted eight points in the opening four minutes of the Nets’ 109-107 loss against the Miami Heat, collided with Heat forward Trevor Ariza and was forced to leave the game, Sunday night. The two banged knees on the play, and Durant suffered a left knee contusion.

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There’s still no specific word on how severe Durant’s injury is.

Nets Head Coach Steve Nash’s Kevin Durant Update

Nets head coach Steve Nash provided an update after the game but never indicated if Kevin will undergo an MRI.

“He’s sore but we don’t know how severe,” Nash said, per Jasmyn Winbish of CBS Sports. “We’ll see tomorrow how he wakes up and go from there but right now nothing’s been determined.”

Playing without Durant — who is ruled out for Tuesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans — for an indefinite amount of time could give the Celtics a significant competitive edge ahead of their showdown Friday night at Barclays Center.

“The timing of everything this year has just been a telltale sign of what life is right now in terms of the uncertainty of a lot going on,” Irving said after Sunday’s loss, per Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. “Anything could happen at any moment, so we don’t want to take anything for granted. But anytime one of our teammates goes down, anytime something like that happens, it’s definitely going to take a hit for us. And he’s just gotten back. We just pray that it’s not too serious and he’s able to recover, but it definitely has hit on our continuity at times.”

Short-Handed Celtics Lose To Nikola Vucevic, Bulls

The Celtics know a thing or two about taking a similar hit, per Monday’s 102-96 loss to the lowly Chicago Bulls, where four of the Celtics’ best six players were forced to sit out.

Boston’s starting unit has been spending the course of the regular season searching for continuity and just when the light at the end of the tunnel seemingly appeared, the injury report list just started growing. Be it Jaylen Brown (non-COVID-related illness) missing in action against the Golden State Warriors or starting center Robert Williams, who’s been out for over one week due to soreness in his left knee, the Celtics can’t seem to catch a break on the health front.

Just when the luxury of having Kemba Walker in a back-to-back-less two-week stint kicked in, Walker was out sick against the Bulls, Monday night and Chicago capitalized. Outscoring the Celtics 32-18 in the third quarter, the Bulls were rolling offensively while Boston’s offense remained stagnant and couldn’t find its way until the final frame.

However, the Bulls held their ground. They strung together back-to-back defensive stops in the final minute of the game and cruised to a 102-96 win.

Making matters worse, Walker’s running mate in the backcourt — Marcus Smart — was added to the list as a late-game scratch. After Stevens confirmed during his pregame media availability that Smart was cleared to play, Marcus was ruled out just before tip-off and rookie Payton Pritchard got the start.

Not even Jayson Tatum’s first career triple-double (14 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) nor Brown’s game-high 23 points save the Celtics. Bulls center Nikola Vucevic scored with a game-high 29 points and Coby White finished with 19 points, 7 assists.

Will Celtics Capitalize Against Kevin Durant-less Nets?

But, without Durant in the picture, is this the golden opportunity for the Celtics to upset Brooklyn?

Being that it’s on the second night of a back-to-back, it’s difficult to predict what the Celtics’ lineup will look like. Walker, if he plays against Chris Paul and Phoenix Suns, Thursday, will most likely sit against the Nets.

However, Evan Fournier, who will be entering the final testing stage of the NBA’s health and safety protocol, should be back by Friday, alongside, possibly Williams, if he’s feeling better.