Kyrie Irving’s Nets return may lessen Patty Mills’ 3-point load

Kyrie Irving is available to rejoin the Nets’ lineup in their remaining road slate, beginning Wednesday night at Indiana, perhaps lessening the burden on veteran guard Patty Mills — at least in those games — to fire away so much from 3-point range.

With Irving gone all season due to COVID-19 vaccination issues, Mills mostly has emerged as the Nets’ No. 3 offensive option from the outside, after stars Kevin Durant and James Harden, since Joe Harris (ankle surgery) was sidelined in November.

The 33-year-old Mills has posted a career-best 13.8 points per game in his first season with the Nets, but missed all six of his shot attempts (five from long distance) and didn’t score in 30 minutes in Monday’s loss to Memphis, the Nets’ third consecutive defeat.

“It’s put a heavy burden on him, and outside of Kevin and James, he’s our leading shooter without Joe, so he’s had a heavy burden,” coach Steve Nash said of Mills. “I think he’s a little tired at times and that’s natural. He’s allowed to have off-nights but he’s also, on top of the off-nights that everyone has, he’s played a lot of minutes and had a lot of responsibility.

Kyrie Irving and Patty Mills
AP; Getty Images

“Maybe that’s caught up with us a little bit here, but that’s just something that we’ve got to weather.”

Mills, whose string of 21 consecutive starts could be interrupted with Irving’s expected return, is shooting 42.8 percent from 3-point range this season, even after the five straight misses Monday.

“Obviously, Patty is one of our better shooters. We have to do a better job of making it easier for him and giving him easier shots,” Harden said. “Obviously, he can make contested shots and tough shots because he has been doing it his entire career, but we’ve got to make his shots much easier.”

LaMarcus Aldridge (foot) has been listed as questionable for the game Wednesday after sitting out against the Grizzlies. The Pacers were without Malcolm Brogdon, Chris Duarte, Isaiah Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Caris LeVert, Kelan Martin and T.J. Warren due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols Tuesday night against the Knicks.

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