Why are the Boston Celtics one win away from sending one of the NBA's most talented duos home for the summer?
If you ask Steve Nash, it's because that duo is working too hard.
After watching Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving score just 16 points apiece in the Nets' 109-103 loss to the Celtics in Game 3 on Saturday night, the Brooklyn head coach pointed out that his stars have "got to be tired."
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"Kyrie's fasting, and Kevin has had to play 40-plus minutes for five, six weeks after missing six, seven weeks," Nash said in his postgame press conference. "We needed him to play 40 minutes (per night) or we wouldn't be in the playoffs ... So, I'm sure that's taken a big toll on Kevin. He's carried a huge burden for us for weeks on end -- Kyrie as well since he's been playing at home and on the road."
Nash also noted that Irving has been fasting during the month of April while observing Ramadan. That would entail not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset every day from April 1 to May 1.
"Fasting, it can't be easy," Nash said. "I go play tennis and I haven't eaten, I feel like I'm gonna fall over, so I can imagine how he feels in an NBA playoff game.
"So, I commend how hard he plays considering and how much minutes they've both had to endure for us to be in this position with all the injuries we've had this year and all the interruptions. So, I feel for them. I feel for those guys."
The Nets have leaned heavily on Durant and Irving since both have returned to action full-time, as they have very little scoring depth behind their two superstars.
Boston has done an excellent job making both players work, too. Aside from Irving's 39-point outburst in Game 1, the Celtics have put the clamps on both players -- especially Durant, who is shooting well under 40% for the series with 17 turnovers through three games.
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Durant and Irving weren't interested in using fatigue as an excuse, however.
"Nah, I don't think fatigue has set in," Durant said. "I feel good playing. I'm not winded. My body doesn't hurt. I wouldn't blame it on that."
"My legs feel OK," Irving added. "... When I show up to the arena, there are no excuses that I have for me being ready and prepared. I do everything I can to make sure that I'm spiritually grounded and I'm respecting my faith, but also knowing that when I step into this building, I don't want any excuses on my name."
It's admirable of Nash to try to defend his players, but making this kind of excuse for them isn't the best look. If Durant and Irving want to keep their season alive, they'll have to find a way to win Game 4 on Monday night.
Note: Games 4-6 of the Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics series will be aired on NBC Sports Boston and can also be streamed on NBCSportsBoston.com or with the MyTeams App, which you can download below.