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Kevin Durant exits with left knee sprain in Nets win over Pelicans, 120-105

New Orleans Pelicans v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

A win in the record books but a larger loss in the process.

The Nets defeated the Pelicans, 120-105 at Barclays Center Saturday night. With the win, Brooklyn bumps up to 26-15 on the season and 12-11 at home. The win extends the Nets’ winning streak against New Orleans to seven games — the longest active winning streak against any team. And the rookies played sensationally... BUT

The biggest story of the game was Kevin Durant, who suffered a left knee sprain in the second quarter. After a Pelicans’ offensive foul that sent Bruce Brown to the ground, he fell into Durant’s left knee and the superstar immediately favored it. Durant was able to walk off the court gingerly and into the locker room. At halftime, the team listed the injury as a left knee sprain and he didn’t return to the contest. He tallied 12 points, three rebounds and two assists in 12 minutes of play before exiting the game.

“Yeah. I mean tonight with what happened with K [Kevin Durant] and then Kai [Kyrie Irving] being able to play road games only, and then Joe [Harris], Nic [Claxton], LaMarcus [Aldridge],” said James Harden. “We’ve been a resilient group since I’ve been here and we just got to keep going. Keep pushing. Keep pushing.”

Here’s the video of Durant’s knee injury suffered in the second quarter ...

Shortly after the update provided by the team, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Durant will undergo an MRI on Sunday.

Barclays Center does not have an MRI. That’s the norm around the league. The Nets do have access to an MRI at the HSS Training Center. Woj’s colleague, ESPN beat writer Nick Friedell, talked with Durant as he left the arena...

“I spoke to him at halftime,” said Harden. “He said somebody kinda ran into his knee. I was just lifting weights so I haven’t spoken to him yet,” “I’ll call him. I think he gets an MRI tomorrow so we’ll see what happens. Hopefully, it’s not bad at all.”

Steve Nash said he did not speak with Durant between the time of the injury and his departure from Barclays. Expect a medical update Sunday.

Harden finished the quality home win with his third 25+ point and 15+ assist game of the season — 27 points, seven boards, and 15 assists to go with one steal, a block and six turnovers in a game-high 40 minutes of play.

“It’s tough. No Kyrie. No Kevin. No Joe. He’s going to have to play a lot,” said Nash on Harden’s load. “We’ll have to be careful with how many games he plays at what number of minutes, but we’re definitely going to need him out there.”

It was another stealthy showing for the Nets rookies. Day’Ron Sharpe became the fourth-youngest Net to record a double-double in franchise history. The big tallied 12 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes. Kessler Edwards strung together another solid performance, scoring 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 from three-point range to go with six rebounds and two assists. Edwards is now shooting 41.7 percent from deep on the season. Cam Thomas led the scoring off the bench with 20 points in 34 minutes, going 9-of-13 overall and 2-of-5 from beyond the arc.

“They’re getting better every game. They’re learning, and I think one thing that they bring consistently is their effort,” said Harden on the play of the four rookies. “That’s all that matters. Obviously, Day’Ron is very skilled. He’s got really good hands at finishing the basketball, and then Kess defensively on the wing is active and has been knocking down the three. It’s huge for us. They bring that energy and effort every single night and that’s contagious. That rubs off on each and every individual on the team.”

Patty Mills had a solid performance with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and 3-of-7 from 3-point range in 29 minutes of play. As a team, Brooklyn concluded the win shooting 54.8 percent from the field and 44.4 percent shooting from three.

“He missed a game, which is good. I think that’s really important trying to give him a little bit of relief. He just plays so hard and has been playing a lot of minutes this year,” said Nash on Mills’ play. “I think that helps but sometimes you have stretches where you shoot better than others, and that’s just the nature of the game.”

Brooklyn started Harden, Mills, Durant, Edwards, and Sharpe. The Nets had the juice early, hitting seven of their first 11 shots and rotating well defensively to take an early 18-10 lead, off a 7-0 run with 6:54 left.

Durant got off to a hot scoring start and carried it throughout the contest. The superstar tallied 12 points in the quarter on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and 1-of-3 shooting from three-point range. Harden followed with a productive six points, two boards and four assists after one — Nets lead 32-22.

Brooklyn kept their foot on the gas, forging an 11-0 run to begin the second. Behind the play of the rookies — Thomas, Edwards and Sharpe — and Harden manning the show, the lead quickly ballooned to 25 points (52-27) with six minutes left in the second.

It was smooth sailing until the KD injury scare. Despite Durant’s knee injury, Brooklyn carried their barrage throughout the second, tallying a total of 69 points, and hit the break with their largest halftime lead of the season (28 points). Five Nets were in double-figures at halftime — Harden (13), Edwards (13), Durant (12), Thomas (11) and Mills (10). Brooklyn dished 17 assists on their 26 made shots.

New Orleans Pelicans v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Without Durant, the Nets remain afloat and carried a double-digit lead throughout the third. The Pelicans slowly climbed back throughout the third, trimming the deficit to as little as 16 points but couldn’t get over the hump in the frame. Brooklyn held a 95-77 lead heading into the fourth.

The Pelicans didn’t shy away from pulling out a late-game rally but the Nets weathered the storm, playing Harden for the majority of the final frame (up to the 2:13 mark) and finishing the game with a 15-point home victory.

The Nets are now 27-15, a half game behind the Bulls and a half game ahead of the Heat. It also put them over the .500 mark at home. They’re 12-11.

Brandon Ingram, guarded mostly by Edwards, finished with 22 points, five points below his average over the last five games.

The Film Room

The next 12 hours are going to be a cruel, unfair waiting game, unfortunately, so let’s highlight what was an otherwise exciting game.

It’s not a coincidence that James Harden had yet another strong showing next to the rookies. Out of sheer necessity due to absences and injury, the Nets have stumbled upon cavalry that best optimizes their superstar point guard — calvary that’s just 20.5 years in age on average.

Yet, with Kessler Edwards, Day’Ron Sharpe, and Cam Thomas, Harden is finally surrounded by the perfect recipe of shooting, secondary shooting, and most importantly, a roll man that best accentuates the Beard’s downhill game.

“We’re just playing our role,” said Cam Thomas. “Whatever role we’re put in, we’re playing our role and we’re just doing our best in a role. So I feel like we’re just excelling in the role that we’re put in.”

Let’s start with Sharpe since he’s breathed new life into the Nets pick-and-roll game. It’s not a stretch to say he’s already Brooklyn’s best pick-and-roll big. He’s a better screen-setter with a wider frame than Nicolas Claxton, making his screens all the more forceful; he’s more of an above-the-rim threat than Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap; and, he rolls down the lane with a zippiness that LaMarcus Aldridge hasn’t provided in almost a decade.

Here, the Nets run “Chicago” action for James Harden with Kessler Edwards setting a pindown for the superstar guard and then actually popping to three (!!). Harden then flies into a handoff with Day’Ron Sharpe, who makes great contact with his screen before crashing down the lane with perfect timing. A perfect lob right into Sharpe’s catch radius completes the play.

Sharpe didn’t fill his role; he exceeded expectations on Saturday. This layup after the step-through was quite the balletic finish from the beefy young center. Once again, you get a feel for the blossoming chemistry between Sharpe and Harden.

Kessler Edwards, meanwhile, appears to be the 3-and-D force the Nets have long been searching for. On one end, he hounded Brandon Ingram on isolations (Ingram finished the night just 8-of-21). It was yet another significant assignment for the 21-year-old after defending the likes of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine in Chicago.

On the other, he spaced the floor for Harden and Sharpe in the pick-and-roll by standing in the corners ready to shoot, stressing help defenders tasked with low man rotations. But if there’s one highlight to get excited about, it’s this:

This may look like your regular old standard relocation three after flying off a screen. And it is. But for Edwards, it represented a new threshold of 3-point expertise. Given his unorthodox mechanics, it was unclear how Kessler would fare as a movement shooter. With how the Pepperdine product spreads his feet on his release, it wasn’t unreasonable to wonder if he’d be able to get into his shooting while changing directions.

“It’s really just my confidence,” said Edwards about his improvements as a shooter. “I mean, I’ve had a couple nights where I didn’t shoot how I wanted to, but just staying with it. I mean, I know I’m a shooter ever since college. So that’s really the main thing is getting shots up, staying confident.”

For now, Kess has passed that test. With every game, it seems more and more that the Nets may have stumbled upon something really special.

Milestone Watch

THE ROOKIES!

Day’Ron Sharpe (12 points, career-high 10 rebounds) has recorded his first-career double-double. At 20 years, 70 days old, Sharpe is the fourth-youngest player to record a double-double in franchise history. The others: Derrick Favors, Cliff T. Robinson (not the Cliff Robinson who played with Jason Kidd and Vince Carter), and Jarrett Allen.

Kessler Edwards (16 points), Cam Thomas (20) & Day’Ron Sharpe (12) reached double figures in the third. They are the first trio of Nets rookies to reach double digits in the same game since Mirza Teletovic (14 points), Tyshawn Taylor (14) & Toko Shengelia (11) on April 15, 2013 vs. Washington.

Edwards, after hitting 4-of-5 three’s tonight, is shooting 41.7 percent from three, putting him behind only Joe Harris, Patty Mills and DeAndre’ Bembry among the Nets’ players. Thomas has now had three 20+ points in three of his last four games,

Meanwhile... with his third free throw made tonight, James Harden (6,833) moved past Adrian Dantley (6,832) into 10th place in NBA history in free throws made. Next up: Paul Pierce (6,918). Harden also set a different kind of record, as StatMuse tweeted.

That’s okay. Harden is also fourth in 3-pointers made with 2,533, only 27 behind Reggie Miller.

Meanwhile, Patty Mills had his 12th game of 20 or more points. That’s the most the 13-year vet has ever racked up in a season.

Finally, the Nets 28-point lead was the Nets largest halftime lead of the season and the second-biggest halftime lead for the Nets at Barclays Center since it opened in 2012-13, trailing only a 62-30 halftime lead on February 10 of last year vs. Indiana.

Meanwhile, over at 30 Rock...

Not long after Nets-Pelicans ended, Saturday Night Live had some fun with the NBA’s often comical attempts to field enough players during the COVID pandemic. In the skit, the gang at NBA on TNT takes a look at how the Kings did in a first half with only a skeleton roster of replacement players against the Nets. Enjoy!

YES Network debuts Netaverse!

Video games, you got noting on the Netaverse, the YES Network’s latest feature which debuted Saturday.

Michael Grady described the technology this way in his feature, “I Did Not Know That.”

An innovative video system made possible by over 100 high resolution cameras surrounding the court which then feed into Canon’s 3-D video system which quickly generates incredible, life-like 3-D renderings in a matter of seconds. The Netaverse will bring viewers to places on the court never seen before, a video game come to life.

Here’s some of the video. Ryan Ruocco and Sarah Kustok went to the Netaverse a couple of times in the broadcast...

Expect to see a lot more of this in the YES broadcasts of Nets games, particularly in stop action analysis. As Grady said...

“Barclays Center is the first arena where the cameras are installed, the Nets are the first pro sports team with this technology and we are honored to broadcast its debut on the YES Network.”

Remember when we thought the Telestrator was cool technology?

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next?

Cleveland Cavaliers v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets will return to action on Monday when the team travels to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers. The game is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective on Saturday night’s game, check out The Bird Writes — our sister site covering the Pelicans.