If the Brooklyn Nets are going to hold off the teams chasing them in the Eastern Conference and earn a playoff spot, they'll have to do it without star point guard Kyrie Irving. The Nets will try to earn their first win since it was announced that Irving would undergo arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder when they visit the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.
Brooklyn announced Thursday that Irving, who has been limited to 20 games this season by shoulder and knee ailments, would undergo season-ending surgery and the team put together a strong battle later that night against the Philadelphia 76ers on the road before falling 112-104 in overtime. "You wanted some time to work things out, work on our continuity and obviously work on the chemistry of the team and how we're going to use him," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters of Irving. "That's the disappointing part. We're not going to have that opportunity. We'll have to start fresh next season and figure it out quickly. But that is the disappointing part." One of the teams trying to make a run at the seventh or eighth spot in the East is the Hornets, who extended their winning streak to three in a row by coming out of the break and earning a 103-93 victory at Chicago. "We just showed maturity," Charlotte forward Miles Bridges told reporters. "I feel like earlier in the season, we probably would have given that one up. We just kept fighting on defense, kept making the little plays and executing on offense. We needed this game. If we can keep going, I feel like we'll be in good shape."
TIME: 7 p.m. ET. TV: YES, FS Southeast
ABOUT THE NETS (25-29): Brooklyn is sitting in the No. 7 spot in the East, 4 1/2 games clear of the ninth-place Washington Wizards entering play on Friday, and battled the 76ers on Thursday despite shooting 35.3 percent from the field to fall to 17-17 with Irving out of the lineup. The Nets got a combined 47 points from the starting backcourt of Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert on Thursday, and the team has no intention of packing it in with Irving and Kevin Durant, who will not play this season, sidelined. "I think they look at it as a challenge, an opportunity, 'Hey can we do something special without those guys,'" Atkinson told reporters of his players. "...I think the spirit is really good in (the locker room). I think these guys want to surprise some people."
ABOUT THE HORNETS (19-36): Point guard Devonte' Graham went into Thursday leading the team in scoring at an average of 18.1 points but went scoreless on 0-of-7 shooting at Chicago - his first scoreless appearance of the season. Charlotte is trying to build a well-rounded, young roster and several players were ready to pick up the slack for Graham, including reserve shooting guard Malik Monk. The 22-year-old went for 25 points on 7-of-13 shooting in 30 minutes and is averaging 21 points over the last five games and bring his season mark to 10.2.
1. Nets C DeAndre Jordan recorded a double-double in three of the last four games.
2. Bridges scored 20 or more points in six of the last eight games.
3. Brooklyn took two of the first three meetings, including a 111-104 triumph at Charlotte on Dec. 6.
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