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Nets, Kyrie Irving blow lead in loss to Trail Blazers

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups proclaimed Kyrie Irving the most skilled point guard he had ever seen, but warned that having a part-time player would be tough to deal with. 

Monday was a reminder of why. 

With Irving admitting he is still trying to regain his wind — then suffering a late ankle injury — the Nets blew a lead and lost 114-108 to Portland before 16,379 at the Moda Center. 

“Guys were gassed, really. There were some good stretches, but overall I don’t think we had the juice to follow through and finish the job,” coach Steve Nash said. “I don’t know if anyone’s ever had a six-hour flight between games, so I get it. I understand. They’re trying to dig deep late. 

“I know our guys were tired after [Sunday’s] overtime game, so to get on a six-hour flight and get here. They had a good effort. We had the lead at some point in the second half and just couldn’t sustain the effort, couldn’t close out possessions. They made big shots and we didn’t.” 

Kyrie Irving and the Nets lost to the Trail Blazers on Monday.
NBAE via Getty Images

Kevin Durant poured in a game-high 28 points and had 10 rebounds. Irving added 22 points and eight boards, playing through a gimpy ankle after a collision with Nassir Little. Irving’s midrange jumper put the Nets up 74-68 with 5:55 left in the third quarter, but they gave up a 19-7 run to end the period. 

They never got closer than two in the fourth. 

It was 98-93 with 5:54 to play when Irving had the Nets and their entire fanbase holding their collective breath when he went down following a collision with Little. The Blazers’ wing dove for a ball he had no chance to reach, going between Irving’s legs as the Nets guard leapt and had his ankle taken out. 

“I’ll be OK. It’s a bad one, just one of those bad plays,” Irving said. “I tried to get out of the way, but I just felt like it was unnecessary for him to dive that far away from the ball. I was trying to get out the way. But just [an] unnecessary play … it’s totally unnecessary. I get Nassir wants to go for the ball, but it’s like, bro, it’s just a bad play. It’s all good.” 

Irving was worked on by trainers on the bench, and had a long talk with the referees before play resumed. 

“I was just like, man, that’s just not a good play for basketball. I could’ve broke my ankle or done something worse. It’s just there’s no place in our game for it,” said Irving, who insists he’ll be fine to play Wednesday in Chicago. 

Nasir Little dives for a loose ball at Kyrie Irving's feet.
Nasir Little dives for a loose ball at Kyrie Irving’s feet.

The Nets can only hope so, having lost five of seven going into that tilt against the East-leading Bulls. And this latest defeat came against a team minus stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. 

Cam Thomas had 21 points off the bench, with Day’Ron Sharpe added 14 points and seven boards to relieve the foul-prone Nic Claxton. But the Blazers shredded the Nets’ defense with three 20-point scorers, led by Anfernee Simons (23 points). 

Anfernee Simons
Anfernee Simons scored a team-high 23 points against the Nets.

Irving gave the Nets their biggest lead of the night, hitting a 14-foot jumper for a 70-63 edge with 7:53 in the third quarter. And his pull-up put them up six midway through the third, before they ran out of gas in Portland’s game-changing run. 

After the Nets went behind on a bucket by Robert Covington (21 points), Thomas drilled a 3-pointer to give Brooklyn a brief 79-77 edge. But they couldn’t hold it, allowing up a 10-2 run, closing out a 32-point quarter for Portland. 

The Nets let the Blazers hit 8 of 15 from deep in the quarter, and went into the fourth trailing 87-81. 

The Nets never got closer than 91-89 in the fourth. And grueling as a cross-county back-to-back might be after an overtime game, Durant didn’t want to hear any alibis. 

“Who cares? It’s a part of the game. It’s a part of who we are. We’ve been in the league,” Durant said. “They throw s- -t at you, you’ve gotta figure out how to work around it, and we still had an opportunity to win this game. So who cares? That’s what championship teams go through: a little adversity.”

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