Nets hope to get Durant started, 76ers try to finish Raptors
NEW YORK (AP) — Scoring has rarely looked so difficult for Kevin Durant.
A four-time NBA leader who averaged 29.9 points this season, Durant missed each of his 10 shots in the second half of Game 2 against Boston. He made just 13 of 41 while the Brooklyn Nets fell into a 2-0 hole.
The Nets host Game 3 on Saturday and might get Ben Simmons back in Game 4 on Monday. They could be facing elimination by then if Durant doesn’t revert to the player who was averaging 29.5 points in the postseason coming into this series, third-highest ever.
“I’ve seen Kevin fight back from bad games plenty, plenty of times in his playoff career. So I couldn’t have more faith and trust in Kevin Durant,” Nets coach Steve Nash said.
Another series in the Eastern Conference could end Saturday. The Philadelphia 76ers can become the first team into the second round by beating the Toronto Raptors to complete a sweep.
“We’ve got a chance,” Joel Embiid said after his winning 3-pointer in overtime of Game 3. “We’ve just got to do what we’re supposed to do.”
In the other games, Minnesota tries to bounce back from its huge collapse to even things up in Game 4 against Memphis, while Dallas hopes Luka Doncic is available as it tries for a 3-1 lead over Utah.
Even though it is a No. 2 seed against a No. 7, the Boston-Brooklyn series was thought to be one that could go the distance. The Celtics are one of the league’s toughest defensive teams, but the Nets can be dangerous against anyone because of Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Yet the Celtics can end it quickly if the Nets don’t figure out a way to get those two superstars going. They were a combined 1 for 17 after halftime in Game 2, when the Nets managed just 42 points after leading by 17 in the first half and Boston rallied for a 114-107 victory.
Nash said he wasn’t planning any changes to his rotation for Game 3, though it could look different in Game 4 if Simmons is fully recovered from a herniated disk in his back. Teammate Patty Mills said his fellow Australian’s athleticism and defensive ability make it easy to envision him sliding into a key role.
“Now, of course, that’s who he is coming into a series halfway through against a really good Boston team, especially defensively,” Mills said. “That’s what we have, but like I said, it’s the task at hand for us and we’ve got to run with it. We’ve got no other choice.”
76ERS AT RAPTORS
Philadelphia leads 3-0. Game 4, 2 p.m. EDT, TNT
—NEED TO KNOW: No team has overcome a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA playoff series.
“It’s a heck of a challenge, but somebody’s got to do it,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “That’s the way I look at it, somebody’s got to do it. And if it gets to 3-1, then it’s not 3-0 anymore. And 3-1 has been done.”
—KEEP AN EYE ON: Tyrese Maxey. Averaging 26.7 points thus far, the second-year guard has a chance to close out a terrific series.
—INJURY WATCH: Nurse said rookie Scottie Barnes is still considered doubtful to play in Game 4 because of his sprained left ankle. Embiid practiced Friday with a brace on his right hand, which he also had on after Game 3.
—PRESSURE IS ON: Fred VanVleet. He’s one of the Raptors’ emotional leaders, and the All-Star guard has to shoot better than his 3-for-13 performance in Game 3.
MAVERICKS AT JAZZ
Dallas leads 2-1. Game 3, 4:30 p.m. EDT, TNT
—NEED TO KNOW: The Mavericks have won the last two games after dropping the opener and Jalen Brunson was spectacular in both, with 41 points in Game 2 and 31 more in Game 3.
—KEEP AN EYE ON: Utah’s perimeter defense — if the Jazz decide to play it. They repeatedly surrendered open looks while Dallas made 40 3-pointers in the last two games.
—INJURY WATCH: Doncic was hoping to play Saturday if he came through practice OK on Friday. The All-Star guard missed the first three games with a strained left calf.
—PRESSURE IS ON: Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. The noise from the outside forecasting a breakup of the Jazz core will only grow louder with another loss, and nobody will hear it more than Utah’s two All-Stars.
CELTICS AT NETS
Boston leads 2-0. Game 3, 7:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN
—NEED TO KNOW: Though neither Durant nor Irving played, Boston romped in its two visits to Barclays Center in the regular season. The Celtics won 126-91 on Feb. 8 and 129-106 on Feb. 24.
—KEEP AN EYE ON: Goran Dragic. After two strong games off the bench in Boston, Nash could look to give the veteran point guard more time on the floor.
—INJURY WATCH: Simmons plans to get another workout Saturday before he and the Nets see if he is ready for Game 4. Center Robert Williams III could be closing in on a return from his knee injury for the Celtics.
—PRESSURE IS ON: Durant and Irving. The Nets just aren’t good enough defensively or balanced enough offensively to win if their two superstars struggle. Boston’s defense is rock solid, but they have to find a way to beat it.
GRIZZLIES AT TIMBEWOLVES
Memphis leads 2-1. Game 3, 10 p.m. EDT, ESPN
—NEED TO KNOW: The Grizzlies slashed a 26-point, second-quarter deficit to seven at halftime, then used a 21-0 run to escape a 25-point hole late in the third quarter while surging past the stunned Timberwolves in Game 3. Ja Morant has yet to take over a game, and Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks have been more quiet than not, but the depth of the Grizzlies has been on full display. The Timberwolves haven’t lost three straight games since Dec. 28-Jan. 2. The NBA’s highest-scoring team has been held under 100 points in each of the last two games, which happened only once to the Wolves over their last 44 regular-season games.
—KEEP AN EYE ON: Karl-Anthony Towns. He was criticized for his passive play and curious postgame answers after the Game 3 collapse, so he has plenty of reason to come out fired up in Game 4 after finishing with eight points, five fouls and only four shots Thursday.
— INJURY WATCH: Wolves guard Anthony Edwards hurt the left knee in the second quarter of Game 3 that bothered him on and off during the season. He still finished with 19 points and seven rebounds in a team-high 40 minutes, but his ability to explode to the basket and get lift on his jumpers bears watching the rest of the series.
— PRESSURE IS ON: Chris Finch. The Wolves coach let his team play through its struggles instead of calling timeout to slow the Grizzlies’ surge in Game 3. After not coming up with an adjustment during the game, he needs to do it between games to get momentum back on Minnesota’s side.
AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
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