Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant scored a career-high 55 points against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday but wound up with a frustrating loss and a foul mood.
The Nets (40-38) are rapidly running out of time to climb out of 10th place in the Eastern Conference as they welcome the Houston Rockets (20-59) to Brooklyn on Tuesday night.
Brooklyn shares the same record as the Charlotte Hornets but does not own the head-to-head tiebreaker because of two home losses to them. The Nets are 2 1/2 games behind the seventh-place Cleveland Cavaliers, whom they will host Friday, and one game behind the Hawks because of Saturday’s 122-115 loss in Atlanta.
The Nets are relegated to the play-in tournament because they are 11-22 in their past 33 games since Jan. 21 — a stretch that included an 11-game losing streak while Durant recovered from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. They are 8-7 since getting Durant back despite the superstar averaging 32.3 points since returning.
On Saturday, the Nets held a 10-point lead 2 1/2 minutes in but could not keep it going and trailed by 15 at halftime. They also committed 29 fouls to match their second-highest total this season, and it resulted in a 49-19 free-throw disparity.
“It’s just undisciplined,” Durant said. “And we do that a lot. That’s just bad basketball.”
“Our guys are disappointed,” Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said. “They know we can play better.”
The Nets also don’t play great at home, where they are 17-21 and have lost two of the three home games Kyrie Irving has appeared in. Irving scored 32 points Saturday but was 12 of 32 from the floor and is shooting 26.6 percent (28 of 105) over his past five games.
“What a time to go into a shooting dip,” Irving said. “I want to climb back out of that, so we’re not putting so much pressure on (Durant) and it’s just better for our offense.”
The Nets have consistently played short-handed this season and could be without Bruce Brown (flu), Seth Curry (left ankle) and Goran Dragic (health and safety protocol) on Tuesday.
Houston owns the worst record in the West and is tied with the Orlando Magic for the league’s worst record. The Rockets will close the season by visiting the Toronto Raptors and hosting Atlanta after facing Brooklyn.
Rookie Jalen Green did not play Dec. 8 due a to strained left hamstring when Houston claimed a 114-104 win over Brooklyn but has at least 30 points in his past four games.
Green scored 31 on Sunday when Houston’s losing streak reached four games with a 139-132 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. It marked the fourth straight single-digit defeat for Houston, which trailed by 27 in the third quarter before rookie Josh Christopher scored 19 of his 30 points in the final quarter.
“I’m a bucket, and I just need to stay confident in myself,” Green said. “That comes with playing in games.”
Green’s emergence is occurring after the Rockets opted to shut down Eric Gordon (sore right groin), Dennis Schroder (sore left shoulder) and Christian Wood (tight left hamstring) for the rest of the season.
–Field Level Media