For the first time in over three months, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving shared the floor together with the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday in a 105-91 win against the Chicago Bulls.
It was a slow start, but ultimately a positive outcome, that kept Brooklyn in second place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Nets can secure the No. 2 seed Sunday night if they beat the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers or if the Milwaukee Bucks (46-25) lose to the Bulls (30-41).
The Nets (47-24) own a one-game lead over the third-place Bucks, who hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. Brooklyn dropped a two-game series in Milwaukee on May 2-4 as part of a four-game losing streak when Harden was recovering from a strained right hamstring that cost him 18 games.
Since the four-game skid, the Nets have won four straight by following road wins against the Denver Nuggets and Bulls with home wins over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday and the Bulls on Saturday.
“We got it out of the way,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “That’s the way I look at this game. We got a win, and we got it out of the way. It wasn’t great, but here we are with one game left and in a good position to be the second seed.”
Durant, Harden and Irving were in the starting lineup for the eighth time this season and the first time since Feb. 13 at Golden State. Durant missed nearly two months with a hamstring injury and when he returned April 7, Harden was in the first week of his prolonged absence.
The reunion could have occurred Wednesday, but Irving sat out with a facial contusion. He returned against the Bulls and led the Nets with 22 points. Durant could not quite get into the same rhythm as he added 12 on 4-for-17 shooting and Harden finished with five points and seven assists.
“It’s been a long season, full of ups and downs when it comes to lineups and having all our guys on the same page,” Durant said, “But it was good to get everybody healthy, get some minutes with everybody and we’re going to keep building from here.
Brooklyn might have secured the top seed in the East if not for a pair of losses in Cleveland Jan. 20-22.
The Cavaliers posted a wild 147-135 double overtime win in the first meeting when Collin Sexton scored 42 points and then posted 25 points and nine assists in a 125-113 win two nights later. The second win put Cleveland (22-49) over .500 for the last time this season at 8-7.
Cleveland heads to Brooklyn with 12 losses in its past 13 games. The Cavaliers stopped an 11-game skid with a 102-94 win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday but took a 120-105 loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday.
Against the Wizards, Sexton scored 26 points, former Net Jarrett Allen totaled 18 and 14 rebounds, and rookie Issac Okoro added 17. Allen was part of the four-team trade that sent Harden to Brooklyn and is averaging 13.3 points and 9.9 rebounds in 50 games with Cleveland while Okoro is averaging 15.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in his past 12.
“It’s tough seeing another team do what you wanted to do,” Allen said. “But still, at the end of the day, we have different things going down the line and just look to the future.”
–Field Level Media