Nets’ Kevin Durant gets his hands dirty with stellar defensive play
ATLANTA — Kevin Durant was his usual dominant self on offense, with 26 points and eight assists. But it was his defense that ignited him, waving his fist and roaring.
The four-time scoring champion grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds and added two blocks. On one he blocked a Dejounte Murray shot, then chased the loose ball and dove into the stands, deflecting it off a Hawk to force a turnover.
Asked about it, he broke into a Cheshire Cat smile.
« I was more excited that I could save him, » Durant said after the Nets’ 108-107 win over the Hawks. “Yeah, blocking was cool, but being able to get the ball and get possession. I think that was the fun part. I don’t have many opportunities to play this dirty game like that.
« It feels good to get your hands a little dirty, to get on the floor, to get burned on the ground. So it ignites our team, it just deflates their team a little bit, it’s just a lot. So as much as I can try to make defensive plays. I try to do that and change the momentum a bit.
Jacque Vaughn has revamped his rotations with Seth Curry returning from injury on Wednesday night and Joe Harris may not be that far behind.
Curry returned after missing the win in Cleveland with a non-COVID illness. Harris stayed home to treat a sore left knee. He missed a third straight game and his status for Saturday’s New Year’s Eve game in Charlotte is still up in the air.
“No, more clarity. With the two days in between, he’s still back in Brooklyn. We will check with him [Thursday] as he continues to seek treatment. But no, no further updates at this time,” said Vaughn, who did not commit to whether Harris could meet with the team for Friday practice before their game in Charlotte.
« Yeah, well, [Thursday] we have some additional information. [Thursday] will be a recovery day anyway, so it won’t impact the whole group. The next day we were able to practice a bit before leaving for Charlotte. So I hope [Thursday] we have others.
Nic Claxton tied a career high with six blocks.
David Duke Jr., Kessler Edwards, Day’Ron Sharpe and Alondes Williams were all absent, on G-League duty. Donovan Williams, undrafted, played well for Long Island.
Atlanta was without starters Trae Young, Clint Capela and De’Andre Hunter. Young suffered a left calf contusion in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s loss to Indiana. Center Capela has a sprained right calf and Hunter has a sprained left ankle.
The Nets – 21-7 under Vaughn – took second place in the Eastern Conference, jumping half a game ahead of the Bucks.
Brooklyn is 17-3 in its last 20 games, tying the best 20-game streak in franchise history. They have won six consecutive road games, tied for the longest road winning streak in the league this season. The Nets are also an NBA best 11-1 this month.