Nets survive Heat after Kevin Durant leaves early with injury

Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Jan 8, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) tries to dribble around Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) during the first half of their game at FTX Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael Laughlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets survived a thriller in Miami with a 102-101 squeaker over the Heat Sunday night but at the expense of losing Kevin Durant to injury.

Durant left late in the third quarter with a knee injury and did not return. The red-hot Nets though rallied around their fallen leader to pull off their 14th win in their last 15 games.

Royce O’Neale won the game for Brooklyn with his putback off Kyrie Irving’s missed three-pointer with 3.2 seconds left.

The focus shifted immediately to Durant, who will undergo MRI on Monday.

Durant sustained the injury after Heat’s Jimmy Butler awkwardly fell into his right knee following a Ben Simmons’ block at the 1:05 mark of the third quarter.

Seth Curry picked up the scoring slack in the fourth quarter, hitting nine of his 14 points off the bench as the Nets waged a comeback from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit.

Durant scored 17 points and moved to no. 14 in the NBA’s all-time scoring list, surpassing Dominique Wilkins, before leaving the game with the injury.

Irving led the Nets with 29 points and six assists, while Nic Claxton logged in a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks).

Brooklyn improved to 27-13, a full game behind the Eastern Conference leader and rival Boston Celtics, who they will face on Thursday.

There’s a big possibility that the Nets will miss Durant.

Several sports medicine doctors who saw the tape of Durant’s injury fear the Nets superstar suffered another MCL injury.

Last season, Durant missed 21 games due to a sprained MCL, and it didn’t end well.

The Nets went 5-16, including 11 straight losses, as the Nets crashed from the top of the East to the play-in tournament and eventually got swept by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.

The team’s lack of fight during his lengthy absence was one of the factors which led to Durant’s trade request in the offseason.

But this year promises to be different with Irving available and an improved supporting cast.

After the much-anticipated rematch with the Celtics on Thursday, the Nets will play one more home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder before embarking on a five-game road trip that will culminate in Philadelphia against former Net James Harden and MVP candidate Joel Embiid.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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