Kevin Durant’s Big Weekend
On Sunday afternoon the Nets got Kevin Durant back from a thigh injury, and he promptly scored 33 points in leading the Nets to a big win over the Suns. Bookmakers lined the Nets as a slim one-point favorite, which they handily covered in the 128-119 final.
Durant did his damage, which included six rebounds and four assists, in just 28 minutes of play. The Nets dropped two of four games in which Durant was injured, but with him back they once again look like the best team in the East. Which is a scary thought for the rest of the teams in the Eastern Conference considering Brooklyn is still without James Harden.
On the Harden front, things don’t look great for the Nets. He was in the middle of an on-court rehab assignment when he “experienced a setback” according to a statement from the team.
If Durant can stay healthy – he’s only played in 24 games – and Kyrie Irving can continue to dominate – he had 34 points and 12 assists on Sunday against the Suns – even without Harden this is a very dangerous team.
If Brooklyn can add a healthy Harden into the mix when the playoffs begin in May, watch out. The Nets would easily be the favorite to make the NBA Finals.
And the Oscar Goes to… Kevin Durant
Typically Academy Award performances are only attributed to NBA players who like to flop. On Sunday night Kevin Durant actually won a real Oscar as a co-executive producer of the short film “Two Distant Strangers.”
The film stars rapper and actor Joey Bada$$ as a man who gets stuck in a time loop and relives a deadly encounter with a police officer over and over again. The winner for Best Live Action Short is currently playing on Netflix.
Durant, along with Jazz guard Mike Conley, Jr. served as executive producers of the project, and now join Kobe Bryant as the only NBA players to ever win an Oscar.
No, Michael Jordan did not win for Space Jam – although it did make over $250 million worldwide. Shaquille O’Neal on the other hand has received three nominations because of his acting chops, but those were nominations for Razzies, and not Oscars. Shaq was nominated for worst new star for 1994’s Blue Chips, worst actor for 1997’s Steel, and worst supporting actor for 2014’s Blended. Shaq did not win any of the Razzies, and somehow missed out on a fourth nomination for his work as the title character in Kazaam, a film that received a 5% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford Tests Positive for COVID-19
Over the weekend Orlando Magic head coach Steve Clifford tested positive for coronavirus, although he tells reporters that he is currently asymptomatic.
Clifford originally tested positive last Thursday, but tested negative on Friday and he was hopeful that it was just a false positive. But another positive test on Saturday kept him sidelined for Sunday’s game against the Pacers, and it could keep him out for as many as five more games.
Typically the protocols following a confirmed positive test have kept players and coaches out for at least 10 days, and in the interim Magic assistant coach Tyrone Corbon will take over duties on the bench.
Clifford has received both doses of the Moderna vaccine, but the second shot just happened on the Thursday in which he tested positive, so he was not considered fully vaccinated at the time of the positive test. According to the CDC full vaccination isn’t achieved until two weeks after the second dose.
Other NBA Notes
Elsewhere around the Association, the Utah Jazz became the first team to officially clinch a playoff berth. They lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night, but because Portland also lost to Memphis, the Jazz are in.
Utah’s lead over the Suns and Clippers for the top seed in the Western Conference is currently two games, and they play the Suns this coming Friday.
It’s time to pay attention to the Knicks in the Eastern Conference. Over the weekend they won their ninth straight game and have moved to fourth place in the conference, putting them in a position for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. This would be New York’s first playoff appearance since 2013. They currently rank in sixth place on the NBA Eastern Conference odds board at +2500.