If nothing else, Brooklyn Nets‘ (27-13) season flashed before their eyes as Kevin Durant went to the locker room to tend to an apparent knee injury. Perhaps they could breathe a sigh of relief with Kyrie Irving saying that Durant was in “good spirits” after the game.
Head coach Jacque Vaughn noted that Durant greeted his teammates following the 102-101 victory over the Miami Heat.
Still, Durant will head for imaging to find out just what the issue is.
Teammate Royce O’Neale joined Irving in helping to seal the victory following Durant’s departure with a vital putback with four seconds to go in the game. O’Neale finished with eight points in the win, Brooklyn’s second in a row, while also doing his best to speak some positivity into Durant’s situation.
Royce O’Neale Sounds Off On Kevin Durant Injury Scare
“It’s all of us in there together,” O’Neale said after the game of the Nets’ ability to overcome a nine-point Heat lead in the fourth quarter to earn the hard-fought win. “I mean, hopefully, he’s going to be good after this. So, we going to just keep pushing.”
The Nets trailed by one point when Durant exited after Heat star Jimmy Butler fell into him.
They saw Miami build up that late lead before Seth Curry and Nic Claxton took over combining for 15 points on 7-for-7 shooting from the floor in the fourth quarter.
Irving was 1-for-5 in the final frame including that miss which fortuitously bounced to O’Neale amid a sea of players. O’Neale credited the team’s composure for the win while being realistic about Durant.
“I think it’s us sticking to the game plan, adjusting,” O’Neale who struggled from the floor but did have six assists, six rebounds, two blocks, and a steal. “We’re going to keep playing the basketball that we are. Especially on the defensive end. It’s going to take all of us, that’s what we been doing all year.”
O’Neale was later asked about the difference between this year’s squad and the one that went 8-19 without Durant last season.
“It’s a completely different team,” O’Neale said. “Just everybody playing together on both ends.”
That squad got beaten 125-103 by O’Neale’s Utah Jazz in February last season. O’Neale has already talked about the Nets needing to avoid the pitfalls that can come with success.
Royce O’Neale’s Previous Message
“I think we’ve got to raise our level of play,” O’Neale said per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “The way we’ve been playing sometimes, you know, can’t come out with lack of energy or [focus]. We’ve got to set the tone from the jump and then we’ve just got to execute and control the whole game.”
Their streak had just hit six games at that point on December 20. And while they had won 10 of their last 11 then, there were questions about the level of competition they had faced.
To his credit, O’Neale is averaging 10.9 points on 75% true shooting over the last eight games.
Brooklyn has a plus-7.4 net rating with Durant on the floor, per Cleaning The Glass, good for the 89th percentile. Their net rating is minus-4.1 without him and ranks in the 27th percentile. They were worse without Durant last season so perhaps O’Neale’s assessment that this is simply a different team will help them should Durant miss time.