Life without Kevin Durant has proven to be a bit more difficult than the locked-and-loaded Nets expected.
Without Durant — expected to be out until at least the All-Star break with a sprained MCL in his left knee — the Nets leaned on their other superstars and rookies to land a 119-118 victory over Spencer Dinwiddie and the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on Wednesday.
How the Nets handled the adversity in just their second game without Durant underscored how successful of an offseason haul GM Sean Marks had last summer. With their superstar scorer watching from home, the Nets were buoyed to victory by a number of role players and first-year prospects who each stepped in at timely junctures.
Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting and was on fire in the third quarter when he carried the team’s offense for a number of stretches. James Harden shot 8 of 20 from the field and got six free throws, visibly frustrated by the lack of whistles blown his way.
Yet the Nets got timely quality performances from several members of their supporting cast, some of whom could be playing themselves into real minutes later this season.
LaMarcus Aldridge reminded the world why he’s getting All-Star votes even when he comes off the bench. The mid-range machine scored 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field and also blocked two shots in 32 minutes. With Durant out of the rotation, the Nets leaned on Aldridge as a bona fide third star scorer, and he delivered consistently.
Nets rookie Day’Ron Sharpe also continued to impress. In his fifth straight start, Sharpe scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds in 16 minutes of play. Foul trouble continued to plague the rookie out of North Carolina, but Sharpe still showed he can leave an imprint on a game when he can stay on the floor.
Rookie Kessler Edwards, drafted out of Pepperdine, also got another start and continued to flash athleticism and intensity on the defensive end. Edwards finished with only five points on 2-of-5 shooting from the field, but he hit a huge 3 in the fourth quarter to keep the Wizards at bay.