NBA

Durant focused on returning to full fitness, not Nets-76ers showdown

By Sports Desk April 13, 2021

Kevin Durant played down the importance of the Eastern Conference showdown between the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers as the superstar focuses on his return to full fitness.

The Nets and 76ers will go head-to-head in a blockbuster clash pitting the east's top two teams against each other on Wednesday – Brooklyn and Philadelphia share 37-17 records atop the standings.

Brooklyn eased past the Minnesota Timberwolves 127-97 in their rescheduled game on Tuesday, with Durant posting 31 points on 11-for-15 shooting in 27 minutes as the former NBA MVP works his way back from a 23-game absence following a hamstring injury.

The Nets-Timberwolves matchup was initially scheduled for Monday, but it was pushed back in the aftermath of Duante Wright being shot and killed by a police officer in Minneapolis.

It means Durant is facing the prospect of back-to-back games, with his status for the 76ers contest uncertain midweek.

"I want to play just to get back in the swing of things more so than like pinpoint that matchup," said Durant as the Nets eye their maiden championship. "You know what I'm saying?

"I think for us we want to get everybody healthy and acclimated to what we're doing out there and I think that's just as important as circling the calendar for Philly.

"They're a great team, well-coached and I'm sure a team we're going to run into here soon but for us at this point we want to continue to fine tune what we do get better at the things that make us who we are and we'll see what happens down the line."

Durant – in his first game back as the Nets played without James Harden (hamstring) and Kyrie Irving (personal) – added: "I felt good out there. I felt like my wind and legs were getting underneath me in each and every minute I'm playing.

"That's really what I wanted out of this time and we'll see how I feel in the morning and I'll talk to coach and the training staff to see where we go from there."

Durant is averaging 28.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists for the star-studded Nets this season.

He is also shooting a career-high 43.7 per cent from three-point range, while the two-time NBA champion (52.8) only boasted a better field-goal percentage in 2016-17 (53.7).

"It's a tricky balance because he needs to play a certain amount of minutes for his benefit," said Nets head coach Steve Nash. "At the same time, when the game is that out of hand, you're caught like, do we want to risk him being out there at this point in the game.

"In an ideal world he'd play close to 30 minutes, but at the same time, he's out there at the end of the game in meaningless minutes you want to be careful as well.

"We're trying to find that balance. At least he had a good game and got some minutes in his legs."

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