Nets hope Kyrie Irving plays, Kevin Durant rests vs. Blazers

NBA Basketball

The Brooklyn Nets hope to see Kyrie Irving back on the court when they host the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.

Irving has experienced periodic groin issues this season and the latest bout of soreness caused him to miss Thursday night’s 130-113 road victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Brooklyn coach Steve Nash would prefer seeing Irving on the floor versus Portland and Kevin Durant seated on the bench. Durant matched his season high of 42 points in 36 minutes during the rout of the Pacers in the front end of a back-to-back.

“Tomorrow will be a different challenge,” Nash said after Thursday’s victory, Brooklyn’s fourth in a row. “We will see who is available and how it all looks and we’ll play a really good Portland team and try to have a good performance.”

Nash said he would rather have Blake Griffin (14 minutes vs. the Pacers) play for the second straight night than Durant, who recently returned from a thigh injury and missed 23 games with a hamstring injury earlier in the season.

Nash said the decision might not be reached until close to tipoff. But he certainly is impressed with Durant’s recent play for the Nets (43-20), who lead the Eastern Conference by 1 1/2 games over the Philadelphia 76ers.

“What can I say? I have the luxury of coaching Kevin Durant,” Nash said. “You stick him in the lineup and good things happen.”

Durant recorded 10 assists, made 16 of 24 field-goal attempts and hit all eight free throws in a strong all-around effort against Indiana.

Brooklyn also received a stellar performance from Alize Johnson, who had the best contest of his 44-game NBA career with 20 points and a career-high 21 rebounds.

“The energy was there from the moment I walked into the building,” Johnson said. “I was ready to go out there and prove that I belong.”

Portland is suddenly hot with back-to-back 21-point road wins over the Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies to open a six-game excursion.

The solid outings follow a stretch in which the Trail Blazers lost a season-worst five straight games.

“We were definitely ready to play,” veteran forward Carmelo Anthony said after Wednesday’s 130-109 win in Memphis. “You could sense it. You could feel it that we were locked in, and we knew how important this game was for us.”

Portland (34-28) trails the Dallas Mavericks by one game in the battle for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. The top six teams avoid the play-in round.

The Trail Blazers had three 20-point scorers against Memphis. CJ McCollum had 26 points and six assists, Norman Powell tallied 24 and Damian Lillard added 23.

Portland led by as many as 33 points in the first half while rolling to the blowout victory.

“To me, it’s a five-man defense so everybody has to do their jobs,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “For me, the first half was about team defense and that includes transition defense.”

The Nets defeated host Portland 116-112 on March 23 without Durant and Irving. James Harden led the way by scoring 25 points and matching his career best of 17 assists.

Harden (hamstring) will miss his 13th straight game on Friday.

Lillard recorded 22 points and nine assists for the Trail Blazers in last month’s matchup but was just 5-of-17 shooting.

Lillard, who ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring with a 28.2 average, is scoring just 22.3 points per game this month.

–Field Level Media

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