Nets' Kevin Durant, James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin Out vs. 76ers

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVApril 14, 2021

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets will be without several key players when they face the Philadelphia 76ers in a battle for first place in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday night.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Nets announced that Kevin Durant, James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Tyler Johnson, Chris Chiozza and Spencer Dinwiddie will all sit out.

Durant and Griffin are listed as out due to injury management, Harden is out with a right hamstring strain, Aldridge is out with illness (non-COVID-19), Johnson is out with right knee soreness, Chiozza is out with a fractured right hand and Dinwiddie is out with a knee injury that has cost him all but three games this season.

With so many top players on the shelf, much of the burden will rest on the shoulders of All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, who is second on the team in scoring this season with 27.6 points per game. 

Sharpshooting guard Joe Harris, Jeff Green, Bruce Brown, Landry Shamet, Taurean Prince and Nicolas Claxton all figure to play bigger-than-usual roles as well.

Durant is the Nets' leading scorer this season with 28.2 points per game, but he has been limited to just 22 games due to injury. KD missed 23 consecutive games before returning on April 7 and playing in each of the past three contests.

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Harden had been the one constant in Brooklyn's lineup since he was acquired from the Houston Rockets in January, but he is nursing a hamstring ailment that is about to cost him his fourth straight game.

While Harden has been the NBA scoring champion in each of the past three campaigns, he has taken on more of a playmaking role with the Nets, leading them with 11.0 assists per game and leading the entire NBA with 10.9 assists per contest on the year.

Aldridge and Griffin are veteran role players who were signed by Brooklyn after receiving buyouts from the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons, respectively.

While the former All-Stars aren't necessarily key players in Brooklyn, their absence will put the Nets' frontcourt depth to the test against a Sixers team led by MVP candidate Joel Embiid at center.

Wednesday's game is a big one since the Nets and 76ers are tied for first in the East at 37-17.

If every top player was healthy and available, the game could have been an Eastern Conference Championship preview. Instead, the Sixers will be heavily favored to win and take a one-game lead over Brooklyn.