HOUSTON —The Nets were down to a lone star for their game Wednesday night in the Lone Star State — and it showed in a 114-104 loss to the Rockets.
Kevin Durant rested on the tail end of the back-to-back. With Kyrie Irving out indefinitely, it left James Harden with little offensive help. Starting center LaMarcus Aldridge also sat out for rest, and Joe Harris is still sidelined after ankle surgery.
“I told them [the media] have been really on me for giving them some rest,” Nets coach Steve Nash said jokingly before the game. “No, I think obviously we know they’ve had a lot of minutes recently.
“I think they both wanted to play, but it was an opportunity to try to get a little bit of rest during this tough stretch. Especially without Joe [Harris] in the lineup, it puts more pressure on guys. We’re just taking a chance and rolling the dice a bit here.”
They came up craps, trailing by as many as 20 en route to their second loss in three games.
After Harden played 41:35 on Tuesday in Dallas and another 39:19 on Wednesday night, his status for the Nets’ game Friday in Atlanta is up in the air.
“We’ll see how I feel [Thursday], and we’ll see how I feel Friday. We’ll just take it day-by-day,” Harden said. “But yeah, it seems like the more that we rest, the fewer players we have, which is the tricky part about the entire game. It’s something we have to deal with as a unit.”
Nash tried some extravagant roster experimentation.
Nash teamed Harden and Patty Mills with an all-defense frontcourt of DeAndre’ Bembry, James Johnson and Nic Claxton, in a starting lineup that played its first minutes together. It was also Johnson’s first start of the season, and just the fifth start of Claxton’s career.
Deposed starter Blake Griffin came off the bench with seven points and three boards in his first action since bring pulled on Nov. 22.
First-round pick Cam Thomas had a career-high 18 points, while undrafted rookie David Duke Jr. made his NBA debut.
“I think although we lost the game maybe this pays it forward a little bit, not only with the rest for two of our starters but also some of these guys getting extended minutes and rhythm for the game,” Nash said.
Thomas shot 7-for-15, but he finished a game-worst minus-22. Only two Nets were in the positive: Duke and Mills.
Duke had missed time with right hip flexor soreness, getting just a lone G-League game with Long Island before finding himself on the court Wednesday.
“I can’t enjoy it too much, because at the end of the day I really wanted that win,” Duke said. “It didn’t really hit me like, this was my first NBA game. After five minutes on the court, I was like, all right, I’m here. Now I’m just trying to win … so I wasn’t thinking about my first game then.
“After sitting down in the locker room I was like ‘I just played my first real NBA game.’ It was a blessing.”
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