Paul Millsap hasn’t enjoyed many moments this season commensurate with his résumé as a four-time NBA All-Star, but the veteran forward posted his best statistical game for the Nets this season on Saturday in a 111-107 loss to the Bulls.
Big man James Johnson was sidelined with a shoulder injury, but Millsap finished with a season-high 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting with seven rebounds (five offensive) and three steals in 15:21 off the bench.
“He was great. He did a little bit of everything,” coach Steve Nash said. “He scored the ball. He was able to initiate some offense. He got some rebounds, offensive rebounds. Got some steals. Just did a bit of everything. His intensity was great and I thought his impact on the game was really good.”
The 36-year-old Millsap exceeded his previous season-high in points (eight, on Oct. 29) with two early buckets in the second quarter to reach double digits (11) for the first time this season.
“I have a lot of great teammates telling me to be aggressive when I’m out there,” Millsap said. “Tonight I wanted to put an emphasis on that and try to get some easy buckets down low. … For me, I have to continue to do that, be aggressive and play my game.”
Kevin Durant was limited to 35 regular-season appearances among the Nets’ 72 games last year in his return from 2019 Achilles surgery, but the 11-time All-Star continued his heavy workload Saturday, with 28 points in 38 minutes of action, after also logging 38 minutes Friday in a win over the Timberwolves.
The 33-year-old Durant has missed just one game this season, Nov. 19 against the Magic due to a sore right shoulder.
“Kevin’s mentality is a huge reason why he’s one of the best players of all-time,” Nash said. “He loves the game. He comes in every day and has a laser focus on his routine, he finds the most happiness when he’s on the basketball court. The success he has is really the mentality as much as it is the gifts. The joy that the game gives him makes him sacrifice every day.
“So to tell him, ‘Hey, we’re going to limit your minutes on a back-to-back’ is not going to get over very well.”
Even with Johnson sidelined, Nash didn’t reinsert Blake Griffin into the rotation. The former All-Star big man hasn’t played since Nov. 22 at Cleveland.
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