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UPDATE: No Kevin Durant for Nets, No Kemba Walker for Celtics Friday

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Nets played the surging Raptors two nights ago, it didn’t look promising. The roster was as deiminated as it has been in weeks. No Kevin Durant, No James Harden, No Nic Claxton etc., etc. Then, the Nets opened up strong and there was hope. But by game’s end, the Raptors had won their fourth straight and the Nets headed home for a big set of games this weekend. Final Score: Raptors 113, Nets 103. They battled.

Friday night, they’re back and tied for first in the East after the Bucks beat the 76ers, 124-117. It was the depleted (sound familiar?) Philly team’s third straight loss. Boston arrived in New York (Newark Airport actually) a little after midnight following a big 99-86 win over the Suns. Boston has now won nine of their last 11 and moving up fast on the outside in the East.

Both teams will enter tonight’s contest with decimated rosters. Kevin Durant, who had been listed as “questionable” on Thursday’s status report, is out again with a thigh contusion. Steve Nash had said he expected Durant to play Friday vs. the Celtics or Sunday vs. the Suns. For Boston, both Kemba Walker nd Jaylen Brown are out.

Where to follow the game

The Nets will be back on YES Friday as well as ESPN. Nets Radio will carry the game on WFAN 101.9 FM. Tip-off will be not longer after 7:30 p.m.

You can join us on NetsDaily Clubhouse post-game. Insights and conversation. Details here.


Kevin Durant is out again after missing two-plus games with a thigh contusion. Tyler Johnson, who last played on April 4 and was listed as “doubtful,” is also “out.”

Nic Claxton remains out, getting tests under the NBA’s COVID health and safety protocols. And now Alize Johnson has joined him in the protocols. No details on either’s situation. Nor should we expect any. NBA players’ medical issues are covered by HPPA patient security laws. James Harden (hamstring), Spencer Dinwiddie (knee) and Chris Chiozza (hand) are all definitely out and will be for a while.

Mike James, the Euroleague star signed Friday afternoon, will be active and available after quarantining since last Sunday in Brooklyn.

The Celtics beat the Suns with a depleted roster but two of their stars —and three of their starters — are out vs. Brooklyn. Jaylen Brown, who had been day-by-day, is out with a shoulder injury. Big man Robert Williams (knee) is out. Surprisingly, Kemba Walker is too. Evan Fournier however is available, now that he’s out of health and safety protocols and available.

The game

It was always silly to suggest the East was going to come down to Nets vs. 76ers and with both those teams reeling from injuries —and with the Bucks and Celtics still in the East— it seems downright ridiculous now. Now Milwaukee and Boston are on the rise. Only two and a half games separate the Nets, 76ers and Bucks and the Celtics are now a half-game behind the hot, hot Knicks who sit in fourth.

The Celtics win over the Suns was big for a number of reasons. Kemba Walker, facing off against the Phoenix backcourt, had a huge game, scoring 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-11 from deep. He’s out tonight. Still, after and up-and-down season, that’s a great sign for the Green Team. More significantly, the Celtics shut down Devin Booker who had averaged 43 points in the last four games he played against the Celtics.

How’d they do it? Here’s wsjy of Celtics Blog from this morning.

For most of the night, it was Marcus Smart putting the clamps on Booker, holding him to 6-of-13 shooting and two assists. However, it was Kemba Walker stepping in on three offensive charges that would truly change the complexion of the Suns’ offense and eventually fouling out their leading scorer...

Three of those fouls were charges initiated by Walker.

With the three drawn charges tonight, the 6’0 Kemba Walker is now tied with Blake Griffin, Montrezl Harrell, and Kyle Lowry for the league lead.

Can the Celtics sustain their solid play? If they played like they did last night, they can. They won without Jaylen Brown plus Jayson Tatum who had a horrid game, shooting 3-of-17 overall and 2-of-8 from deep. And even with Walker out, presumably for rest, Evan Fournier has a rep as a Nets killed. When he faced the Nets just before the trade that sent him to Boston, Fournier scored 31 to help Magic beat the Nets last month.

In their current run, they’ve beaten the Knicks, Nuggets, Blazers, Lakers, Warriors and Suns. That’s impressive. You can see their confidence and chemistry building after a disappointing year following a disappointing “bubble.” Marcus Smart was talking about Walker when he said the following, but he could have said it about the whole team.

“Kemba’s been struggling coming off that injury. He’s been hearing it a lot, a lot of backlash from it. I’m just proud of the way he’s responded. He comes in everyday, gets his work in, doesn’t let anything phase him, very professional, and he comes out and it pays off. I’m very happy. I’m very proud of him and I’m excited that he’s finally getting his legs back under him.”

For the Nets of course it’s all about Kevin Durant. If he returns, the Nets will have two of their “Big Three” on the court and the playoff run will be on. Brooklyn is expected to sign Mike James sometime Friday but it’s doubtful we’ll seem him soon. The Euroleague star has been in quarantine all week while the Nets are on the road.

The Nets won both previous games, including their Christmas Day blowout. In those two games, Kyrie Irving scored 40 and 37. Celtics fans are reluctant to forgive for his decision to leave for Brooklyn, but they can’t forget him.

Player to Watch: Jayson Tatum

As we noted, Jayson Tatum had a bad games vs. Phoenix but Boston still won. Tatum is probably THE key to the Celtics success. He’s averaging 25.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists with a shooting line of 46/39/91. In the last month, he’s had games of 53 and 44.

And all of this while playing with the after-effects of COVID-19.

He revealed on Tuesday that he uses an inhaler before games as a result of continuing respiratory issues associated with his January bout with the coronavirus. As James Dator of SB Nation reported this week...

[W]hile he made a recovery, the player remains vocal about the long-term effect contracting the virus is having on his life. It raises questions about how sports leagues around the world could be damaged long term by players contracting COVID, even if they’ve seemingly fully recovered.

Indeed, there is a worrying trend in his game log. In his last five games, Tatum had 44 against Golden State and 32 against Portland, he also had 15 against Phoenix and 14 against both the Bulls and Lakers. How much of it is due to the 23-year-old’s status as a COVID “long hauler?” It’s hard to tell. One thing is certain: he’s gutting it out as well as any NBA player.

Oh yeah, one other thing: ICYMI, he was taken with a Nets pick.

From The Vault

Because of injuries and COVID restrictions, Kyrie Irving has yet to play at TD Garden since leaving Boston at the end of the 2018-19 season. Whenever, he does return, you can be sure it will be the opposite of what happened back in 2014 when Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett returned to Boston for the first time. It was as overwhelming a return as we’ve ever seen in the NBA...

More reading: Celtics Blog.