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Undermanned Nets continue L.A. stay against Clippers

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The Brooklyn Nets will again be an undermanned team when they visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are among seven Nets who have been ruled out for the contest due to being in COVID-19 protocols. Former All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the others.

The situation prompted three straight Brooklyn games to be postponed. But the Nets were sharp in their return on Christmas Day, when they posted a 122-115 victory over the host Los Angeles Lakers.

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“Until this is over, until we can get our full roster, I think the motto is, ‘find ways to win,’ and we’ve been doing that,” James Harden said after posting his fifth triple-double of the season with 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Harden hadn’t played since Dec. 10 but was called on to see 39 minutes of action due to the roster shortages. Irving, who is prohibited from playing in home games due to his vaccination status, has yet to make his season debut.

Despite the COVID-19 issues, the Nets still own the best record (22-9) in the Eastern Conference and are a stellar 12-3 on the road. They have won five of their last six games as they face a Clippers squad that has dropped four of its past five outings.

Stepping up for Brooklyn against the Lakers was veteran guard Patty Mills, who knocked down eight 3-pointers and matched his career high of 34 points.

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“Just to be able to take those hits and stay calm and stay composed and stick to the game plan, and we’ve done a great job of being able to take those blows and still stick to what we want to do,” Mills said. “But definitely a massive team effort from every guy that stepped on the floor and being able to deliver their role, which was huge.”

The Clippers are doing their own juggling, but it is an injury that is causing the most havoc.

Standout Paul George tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and will be sidelined for approximately four weeks, if not longer. George initially injured the elbow in early December and missed five games.

George’s absence was felt immediately as the Clippers fell 103-100 to the visiting Denver Nuggets on Sunday night. Los Angeles had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer, but with George not available, it was rookie Brandon Boston Jr. who misfired on a last-second shot.

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“We’re missing our best closer,” guard Terance Mann said afterward. “We got to a close game and nearly stole it.”

Los Angeles was also missing guard Reggie Jackson and forward Marcus Morris Sr. Jackson is in the COVID-19 protocol while Morris exited protocols earlier Sunday but wasn’t in game-ready condition.

It isn’t yet known if Morris will play on Monday.

The Clippers did battle back from a 17-point, third-quarter deficit before coming up short.

“Our guys did a good job and we were in position to win the game,” Los Angeles coach Tyronn Lue said. “I was happy and pleased with the way our young guys played.”

Boston scored 18 points while veteran Eric Bledsoe also had 18 to go with season highs of 10 assists and five steals. Ivica Zubac recorded 17 points and 11 rebounds.

The Nets have won the past three meetings after Los Angeles won seven of the previous eight.

–Field Level Media

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