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HOUSTON — The Nets were down to a lone star for their game Wednesday night in the Lone Star State.
Kevin Durant rested against the Rockets on the tail end of a back-to-back. With All-Star Kyrie Irving out, that left James Harden as the only member of the Nets’ Big 3 to face the Rockets.
Starting center LaMarcus Aldridge also sat out for rest Wednesday.
“I told them [the media] have been really on me for giving them some rest so …” Nets coach Steve Nash joked when asked why the two veterans were sitting out. “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.”
The lineup teaming up Durant, Harden and Aldridge with Patty Mills and DeAndre’ Bembry had a stellar net rating of 16.0 in 81 minutes coming into Wednesday.
Durant is logging 36.2 minutes, more than three minutes above his average from last season. After playing both ends of the Nets’ first four back-to-backs, he finally sat out after playing 40:30 on Tuesday in Dallas.
Meanwhile, Aldridge had started six straight games, averaging 16.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in 29.8 minutes.
“I know people may be concerned about my minutes and I got injured before and all this extra s–t. But we’ll figure that out if I get there,” Durant had said. “Right now I want to play basketball.”
Harden, Mills, Bembry, James Johnson and Nic Claxton started for the Nets, marking the first time that lineup has started together this season. It’s also just the fifth career start for Claxton.
Claxton was the logical stand-in for Aldridge. The young center played 20:57 Tuesday, including the entire fourth quarter, for his most action since returning from illness. Claxton finished with six points, nine boards a team-high plus-9.
“Well it’s nice for us to have those options,” Nash said. “Nic being a versatile, athletic, defender and roller, LA being a scorer and an experienced veteran who understands all the concepts of both ends of the floor. It’s really valuable for us to have both.”
Having Claxton on the floor not only will give Harden a lob threat on offense, but also will allow the Nets to switch 1-through-5 on defense, and not be wed to drop coverage as they are with Aldridge.
“He gives us that layer where he can guard multiple positions and gives us versatility and a guy out there that can guard perimeter players but still protect your rim and rebound is an excellent option for us. So he definitely improves us at that end of the floor,” Nash said.
“We love his attributes and what he can bring to the team and how he can impact teams with our switching defense, but just in general defensively, he has different skill sets than anyone on the roster.”