The Nets had to play without Kevin Durant Wednesday against the Raptors, but they hope they won’t have to be without him much longer, anticipating the star could be back by the weekend.
Durant suffered a thigh contusion April 18 in Miami and missed the next two games. But coach Steve Nash offered hope Durant could return during the upcoming two-game homestand, either Friday against the Celtics or Sunday versus the Suns.
“[Durant] is day-to-day, so Friday or Sunday are very possible,” Nash said. “I’m not sure when it would be or if it’d be either of those games, but he is day-to-day, so if he keeps progressing at this rate Friday or Sunday are very possible.”
Durant is averaging 27.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists, despite logging a career-low 32.7 minutes in just 24 appearances.
After Durant missed 23 straight games with a hamstring injury, his playing time increased in each of four straight appearances — from 18:56 in his April 7 return up to 30:17 last Friday. That is, before he lasted just four minutes against the Heat.
Whenever Durant does come back, Nash was noncommittal about whether he would need to ramp back up again or be thrown right back into the starting lineup and a full 30-minute workload.
“I haven’t actually thought about it yet. This is a discussion to have with Kevin and performance and make sure we’re all on the same page,” Nash said. “He was just creeping out of his ramp up, so how much this sets him back or doesn’t I’m not totally sure. That’s something we’ll have to monitor and make a decision on.”
The Nets were without Durant, James Harden, Spencer Dinwiddie, Chris Chiozza, Tyler Johnson and Nic Claxton. They started Kyrie Irving, red-hot Landry Shamet, Joe Harris, Jeff Green and Blake Griffin in a small-ball lineup.
Shamet entered Wednesday averaging 20.8 points and 50 percent from deep in his past five games.
Despite the Nets’ hesitance to use Griffin in back-to-backs because of his knee woes, their shorthanded situation and his willingness prompted them to use the 32-year-old in his first back-to-back since Feb. 11 and 12. Those were Griffin’s final appearances for the Pistons before being shut down and eventually bought out.
“It’s not ideal. But with the amount of healthy bodies, we talked it over and we decided,” Nash said. “He’s wanted to play in the back-to-backs. We’re going to see how it goes and hopefully we try to limit his minutes. But it’s a difficult thing to do in practice. We definitely don’t want to overexpose him on his first back-to-back in a long time.”
In a dozen games with the Nets entering Wednesday, Griffin led the team in net rating, plus/minus and charges drawn (with eight).
Claxton remained out with health and safety protocols, pending more tests. Reggie Perry — who had been questionable under the same designation — was upgraded to available.
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