While the Brooklyn Nets remain the +242 favorites on the NBA odds to win their first NBA title, their chances of earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference took a major hit over the weekend with superstar and MVP favorite Kevin Durant going down with a sprained MCL in his left knee. He is likely to miss 4-6 weeks.
The NBA All-Star break is Feb. 18-23 and KD could return after that, although the team will not rush him. Brooklyn plays 11 of its next 14 games on the road, and thus it expects to have a Kyrie Irving-James Harden backcourt together for those games. Irving is playing only road games because of his status as an unvaccinated player. The Nets won 16 of 19 games last season when they had Irving and Harden together, but no Durant.
Durant should be back in plenty of time for the playoffs, but his absence limits the number of opportunities for the Nets to see him play with All-Star teammates Harden and Irving. The trio had played just two games together since Irving rejoined Brooklyn while eligible to play in road games.
Durant leads the league in ppg (29.3), is tied for third in 30-point games (15) with Joel Embiid and Trae Young, trailing LeBron James (19) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (16), and leads the league in 20-point games (34). He had scored at least 25 points in 12 straight games, tying his own franchise record, before leaving with the injury Saturday vs. New Orleans.
The Nets haven’t said what type of knee sprain it is. A Grade 1 sprain takes a lot less time to heal than a Grade 3 sprain. This isn’t the first time that Durant has suffered an MCL sprain midseason. In February 2017, during his first season with the Golden State Warriors, Durant was relieved to avoid a more serious injury when he went down early in a game against the Washington Wizards. Diagnosed then with a Grade 2 MCL sprain, Durant missed a little more than five weeks before returning during the final week of the regular season.
The timing of this injury this year likely knocks him out of the MVP race. A best-case scenario of a return in four weeks would mean missing 13 games on top of the six Durant has already sat out. No player has won MVP while missing more than 11 games since Bill Walton in 1976-77.
The Nets have used 20 different starting lineups this season, with 16 Nets drawing at least one start this season. Brooklyn is 8-0 this season when holding its opponent under 100 points. The Nets have won a franchise record 25 straight games when holding their opponent under 100 points (last loss: 94-82 on 12/26/19 vs. New York). They were 11-0 in such games last season.
Brooklyn is also 10-1 when holding its opponent under .400 FG % this season (10-0 last season). The Nets are 17-2 this season when holding their opponent under 110 points. They are 10-0 this season when scoring 120+ points and 10-1 when shooting .500+ FG %.
The Nets have won 30 straight games when scoring 120+ points (last loss: 149-146 on 1/31/21 at Washington), which marks the longest active streak in the league and the longest streak in franchise history. The Nets are also 21-1 this season when scoring 110+ points in a game.
Brooklyn is next in action Monday in Cleveland. It will mark the 14th time the Cavs will play on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at home since it became a national holiday in 1986. This will also be just the 8th time the Cavs have played
on MLK Day at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse (2002 vs. MIA, 2014 vs. DAL, 2015 vs. CHI, 2016 vs. GSW, 2018 vs. GSW, 2019 vs. CHI, 2020 vs. NYK). Overall, including road games since 1986, Cleveland has played on MLK Day 19 times (9-10 record).
Cleveland went 5-1 on its recent 6-game road trip, their best record in a 6-game trip since Jan. 6-15, 2016 (5-1). The Cavs have also won 4 straight games entering Monday, their 4th win streak of at least 4 games this season. Darius Garland is on pace to becoming the first player in NBA history 22 years old or younger to average 19.0+ PPG, 7.0+ APG, .460+ FG% and .900+ FT% in a single season.