The vaunted All-Star Brooklyn Nets trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving made its collective Nets debut Wednesday in Cleveland, and Brooklyn scored a season-high 135 points. Alas, the Nets lost by 12 in double overtime. The teams meet in Cleveland again Friday and Durant first was listed as questionable due to "Achilles injury recovery" but now has been ruled out simply as Friday is the front end of a back-to-back for Brooklyn. The Cavs, meanwhile, might get guard Darius Garland back from a long injury absence. They are 6.5-point underdogs on the William Hill Sportsbook NBA odds; the spread has dropped three points since the Durant questionable (to 7.5 points) then out (to 6.5) listing was released.
Durant, second in the NBA in scoring at 31.3 ppg, did play the last time the Nets had a back-to-back on Jan. 12 at home vs. Denver and then the next night at the Knicks. A few things are different now, however. Back then, the Nets had neither Harden (still with Rockets) nor Irving (out for personal reasons) available. They also didn't have to travel. Brooklyn will fly out Friday night back home to face the Heat on Saturday.
There's also the fact Durant played a whopping 50 minutes on Wednesday. He was spectacular with 38 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks. Irving had 37 points and Harden a triple-double of 21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
Yet, the Nets lost because they couldn't stop Cavs guard Collin Sexton in his return from injury. He had 42 points in the upset, with 22 of them in the overtimes – more than the entire Nets big three combined. Cleveland's 147 points were the third-most in franchise history. Sexton is now 37 points from becoming the third-youngest Cavalier to reach 3,000 career points. Sexton is 22 years, 18 days old today; obviously, the fastest Cav was LeBron James, who reached 3,000 at age 20 years, 62 days.
It was thought Garland might also return Wednesday from a shoulder injury that has kept the No. 5 overall pick in the 2019 draft out since Jan. 2, but he couldn't go – although he was close and thus may well play Friday. Garland is again listed as questionable. He's averaging 17.2 points and 6.3 assists per game. Cleveland is 4-2 in the six games he has played.
Brooklyn is 2-6 against the spread in its past eight after a loss and 2-7 ATS in its past nine as a favorite. Cleveland is 6-2 ATS in its past eight as a home dog and, oddly, has covered six straight Friday games.
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