With Spurs out of way, Nets face challenge of second game in back-to-back nights

Brooklyn Nets
Dec 30, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash reacts in front of referee Courtney Kirkland (61) during the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

What the Nets lineup will look like on Monday night is anyone’s guess right now. Head coach Steve Nash indicated that some of the guys who played in Sunday’s win over San Antonio won’t play in Monday’s rescheduled matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Understandable, considering the cross-country trek the Nets are making that will take them to The City of Roses on Monday and then to Chicago on Wednesday. Nash may be forced to get a little more creative after Sunday’s game in Brooklyn needed overtime to decide a winner.

Surprisingly, Kevin Durant and James Harden are expected in the lineup on Monday, Nash confirmed after the win. Harden logged a game-high 44 minutes of playing time and Durant played the second-highest minutes at 43.

[READ: Cam Thomas’ heroics help snap Nets Home losing streak]

It was presumed that one or both Harden and Durant would have sat out the game in Portland, especially with Kyrie Irving able to play on the road. Asked by a reporter why it was important for Durant to play on Monday, the Nets superstar said, “I want to play and then they pay me money to play basketball.”

Harden and Durant played the most minutes, but they weren’t the only ones to play significant minutes on Sunday. Patty Mills appeared in 39 minutes, Nic Claxton played 33 and Cam Thomas played 30 minutes. Nash said that everyone was going to make the trip.

Even with everyone traveling, the consideration to play Irving more on Monday is there. In his first game back, the Nets tried to keep him to around 30 minutes of playing time and he ended up on the court for 32 minutes.

Nash didn’t seem to balk at the idea when he was asked about it on Sunday.

“We’ll see. Typically, with a game under his belt, he can play a little more tomorrow. That’s definitely possible,” Nash said.

The Nets are in the middle of a stretch where they’ll play four games in five nights, with all four games coming as part of a back-to-back. Brooklyn has been the best team on the road this season, where they’ll play their next two contests.

Monday’s game had originally been slated to take place on Dec. 23, but the NBA postponed it due to a lack of players during the Nets COVID outbreak. The league announced last week that the game would be made up this week, adding an extra stop on would have been just a trip to Chicago.

Nash said he didn’t have any say as to when the game was moved to and that he couldn’t remember any time that he had to have to take a six-hour flight for a back-to-back game. But Nash wasn’t looking for that to be any sort of excuse either.

“It’s different, but we have to take it as an opportunity,” Nash said before Sunday’s game. “An opportunity to succeed under adversity and this moment where we’re trying to find ourselves again. We have a tough back to back so let’s embrace and see if we can win both. If we can win both or at least play well in both maybe that gives us a spark.”