Nets up next on Suns’ East Coast test

NBA Basketball

The Phoenix Suns’ Eastern Conference swing continues Sunday with a game against the Brooklyn Nets, and it appears they once again will face a short-handed opponent.

The Suns defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 116-113 on Wednesday as the 76ers’ Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons and Seth Curry were all out with injuries. Phoenix then lost 99-86 on Thursday to the Boston Celtics, who were without Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams III and Evan Fournier.

Brooklyn MVP candidate James Harden is out indefinitely after aggravating a hamstring injury. Kevin Durant has been out one week with a thigh contusion, but reportedly plans to suit up against the Suns, according to ESPN.

Nets coach Steve Nash, whose team has the best Eastern Conference record at 40-20 heading into play Saturday, said during the week that tests on Durant’s thigh confirmed his status of questionable.

Durant did not play Friday but Nash expressed optimism on that he could be a game-time decision Sunday.

“I think he’s close, but I don’t think he’s there,” Nash said. “I think we’ll see Sunday if that’s a possibility, but it may not. I wish I could give you more. That’s kind of all I know is that it’s close but it’s not quite there.”

Phoenix (42-17) lost its only other meeting with Brooklyn 128-124 on Feb. 16 at Phoenix, with Durant and Kyrie Irving out. Harden scored 38 points.

The Suns could not build off their momentum from the victory over Philadelphia when they faced Boston the following night because of their cold shooting. They shot 40.9 percent from the field (36 of 88) and were 6 of 35 (17.1 percent) from 3-point range.

“If you told me we’re going to hold Boston to 99 points, you’d take that,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We just couldn’t make a shot.”

The Suns, looking fatigued from the quick turnaround after playing Philadelphia, were also outrebounded 48-38 by the Celtics.

Jae Crowder (sprained right ankle) and Abdel Nader (sore right knee) were both against the Sixers and are questionable for Sunday.

Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges are the only Phoenix players to participate in all 59 games this season. Ayton has averaged 15.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.

Devin Booker leads the Suns with 25.1 points per game and veteran Chris Paul leads with 8.8 assists a game.

While the Suns are coming off a loss against Boston, the Nets experienced a 109-104 win over the visiting Celtics on Friday.

Kyrie Irving came close to a triple-double with 15 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds despite shooting 4 of 19 from the field and 0 of 6 from 3-point range.

The victory enabled the Nets to regain first place in the Eastern Conference as they moved a half-game ahead of the Sixers.

“We know that we’re not going to have it right away some games, so we’ve just got to battle through,” said Irving, referencing the injuries to Harden and Durant.

Jeff Green had 19 points Friday as Brooklyn has won six of its last 10 games.

–Field Level Media

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