Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant has been ruled out for the remainder of Saturday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans with a left knee sprain, the team announced.
Durant exited in the first half of Saturday's game after Bruce Brown fell into his knee while trying to defend Pelicans forward Herbert Jones. He will undergo an MRI on Sunday, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Durant was placed in the NBA's health and safety protocols on Dec. 18. He missed three games before returning for a Dec. 30 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Through 35 games this season, Durant has played like an MVP candidate. He ranks first in the NBA with 29.7 points per game, leading Brooklyn to a 26-15 record.
Durant's playing time has been a subject of scrutiny this season. He shoulders a huge load for Brooklyn and has played more than 40 minutes eight times this year.
The Nets were without stars James Harden and Kyrie Irving for parts of this season, placing more of a burden on Durant. Brooklyn head coach Steven Nash said on Dec. 17 that it's "not safe or sustainable" for the two-time NBA Finals MVP to play such heavy minutes.
Durant's absence will put Brooklyn in an interesting spot. Harden hasn't had the pressure of needing to play at an MVP-level this year. His average of 22.6 points is his lowest since his third season in the league. The Nets will need him to carry the team while Durant is sidelined.
Irving was brought back in December to be a part-time player; he can't play home games because of New York's vaccine mandates. Since his return, Irving has averaged 17.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists in three games.
While Durant is out, more minutes are available in the frontcourt for players like Bruce Brown, Blake Griffin, James Johnson and Nic Claxton.