Paul Millsap gives Nets big lift off the bench

Paul Millsap hasn’t enjoyed many moments this season commensurate with his résumé as a four-time NBA All-Star, but the veteran forward posted his best statistical game for the Nets this season on Saturday in a 111-107 loss to the Bulls.

James Johnson, the great man was out with a shoulder injury. But Millsap managed 13 points in the season finale. He shot 6-for-11 and had seven rebounds (5 offensive), as well as three steals (15:21 from the bench).

“He was great. He did a little bit of everything,” coach Steve Nash said. “He scored the ball. He was able initiate offense. He was able to get some offensive rebounds and rebounds. Some steals. Did a little of everything. His intensity was great and I thought his impact on the game was really good.”

Millsap was 36 and surpassed his previous season’s high in points (8 on Oct. 29). He scored two buckets early in the second quarter, to make it double-digits (11) this season.

Paul Millsap drives past DeMar DeRozan during the Nets' 111-107 loss to the Bulls.
Paul Millsap drives past DeMar DeRozan during the Nets’ 111-107 loss to the Bulls.
Corey Sipkin

“I have a lot of great teammates telling me to be aggressive when I’m out there,” Millsap said. “Tonight I wanted to put an emphasis on that and try to get some easy buckets down low. … For me, I have to continue to do that, be aggressive and play my game.”

Kevin Durant was limited to 35 regular-season appearances among the Nets’ 72 games last year in his return from 2019 Achilles surgery, but the 11-time All-Star continued his heavy workload Saturday, with 28 points in 38 minutes of action, after also logging 38 minutes Friday in a win over the Timberwolves.

Durant, 33 years old, has only missed one game due to sore shoulder. It was against the Magic on Nov. 19.

“Kevin’s mentality is a huge reason why he’s one of the best players of all-time,” Nash said. “He loves the game. He comes in every day and has a laser focus on his routine, he finds the most happiness when he’s on the basketball court. His mentality is just as important as the gift of success. Because of the joy he gets from playing, he is willing to give up every day.

“So to tell him, ‘Hey, we’re going to limit your minutes on a back-to-back’ is not going to get over very well.”

Even with Johnson sidelined, Nash didn’t reinsert Blake Griffin into the rotation. The former All-Star big man hasn’t played since Nov. 22 at Cleveland.

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