‘We can’t snap our fingers and have him back’ – The Denver Post

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PHILADELPHIA — At some point, Kevin Durant is going to walk through that door.

It’s the silver lining in Brooklyn’s 137-133 loss to the 76ers on Wednesday, the team’s fifth loss in the seven games they’ve played since Durant went down with an MCL sprain in a Jan. 8 matchup against the Miami Heat.

The Nets lost but came back from down 17 and had an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter. Against a fully healthy 76ers team with three stars in Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, the Nets nearly stole a victory.

Without their best player.

The Nets, however, have formed a united front against the idea of moral victories. They know things will look drastically different when Durant — who ranks 14th on the NBA’s all-time leading scorer’s list and averages a hair under 30 points per game — returns to the team, but his return date has yet to be determined.

“I think we’re all saying that [it’ll look different when Durant returns], but at the end of day, that’s just not our reality that we can snap our fingers and have him back,” Kyrie Irving said. “We want him to get as heathy as possible and show it to ourselves and to him and our entire organization. These losses have not been ugly. There are no moral victories in this league, but I can tell you that I would be definitely worried if we were losing by 25-plus or 20-plus or 15-plus.

“Some of our games have just been our mistakes, and I think we can hold each other accountable cause we can control those things. You seen a ton of those in the second or third quarter. If we can eliminate some of those, we’ll be good.”

Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn has preached a no-excuses mindset since replacing Steve Nash seven games into the season. With Durant out likely another two weeks, Vaughn has leaned even further into that mantra.

“The result is the result and that’s what I told the group after the game,” he said. “This group that’s in the locker room right now, when we line it up against the opponent, expect to win. There’s no if ands or buts. I don’t mention any other thing but the group in the locker room and this group trying to win. So I don’t think about it that way.”

Nets sixth man Seth Curry has stepped up in Durant’s absence. Curry scored a season-high 32 points against his former team on Wednesday. He is averaging 14.8 points per game in the month of January and 17.1 points per game since Durant sprained his MCL.

Curry said the team can’t take the stance that all will be better when Durant returns — true as it may be — because every team has to compete and win with players out of the rotation.

“You can’t look at it like that in the NBA,” he said. “You got to go out try to play well, try to win. In the regular season, so many of these matchups depend on health and what not. Last time Kev was here, we lost. It is what it is.

“You got to go out and compete. [If] we play well, we can compete with anybody like we showed over the past week. So we got to have that mindset where there’s no excuses.”

Without Durant, Curry said the burden falls on everyone else to pick up the slack.

“Obviously Kyrie’s got to do a lot, creating offense for us,” he said. “Ben’s got to help us out and Clax doing a good job making plays with the handoffs and rolling. We just got to create offense different ways.

“The load changes on guys like myself and [we] try to be aggressive and see what happens. We’ve got to stick to it for 48-minute games. On different nights, everybody got to help us out in different ways.”

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