The Brooklyn Nets had the worst potential begin to Game 1 towards the Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets had a play referred to as. Kevin Durant looked for James Harden, and Harden wasn’t the place he was presupposed to be.
“I looked at him,” Durant stated. “He was grimacing.”
Harden left the game 43 seconds into the first quarter with a proper hamstring difficulty, and TNT reported he left the sector for an MRI.
Given that circumstance, the Nets had the absolute best end to Game 1, albeit with fear over Harden’s hamstring. Minus Harden, the Nets defeated the Bucks 115-107 in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal sequence.
“I was really impressed with our perseverance in what could have been an emotional toll on us,” Nets coach Steve Nash stated. “To get out of the first round and prepare for a few days for this series and have our lead playmaker go down in the first minute, that could derail a team. But our guys have been through this and they hung in there and their toughness was on display.”
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving did what they do: Durant had 29 factors and 10 rebounds, and Irving scored 25 factors and delivered eight assists.
Others contributed essential performances in Harden’s absence. Blake Griffin had his greatest sport since becoming a member of the Nets with 18 factors, 14 rebounds, three assists and two steals, and Mike James, who simply two months in the past performed for Russian powerhouse CSKA Moscow, had 12 factors, seven rebounds and three assists.
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“We have the capability of rising to the occasion,” Irving stated. “We’re a very mature basketball club because we play selflessly and trust each other. Any situation in the game, I feel like we have the talent, we have preparation, we have the coaching staff to be able go to go out and execute. After that, its just mainly up to us to continue to play the right way.”
It turned out to be an impressive victory, and the ultimate margin doesn’t inform the story. Brooklyn turned an 86-80 lead late within the third quarter right into a 112-95 lead with 5:02 left within the fourth.
Brooklyn additionally despatched a message to Milwaukee: Without Harden, the Nets are nonetheless ok to beat the Bucks. That’s a psychological hurdle Milwaukee wants to beat.
The consequence shouldn’t come as a shock. The Nets performed a number of video games without Harden and received this season. With Irving, Durant and Harden out and in of the lineup for numerous causes — they performed simply eight video games collectively in the course of the common season — Brooklyn used a franchise-record 38 totally different beginning lineups this season and limitless different in-game combos.
“We’ve had a lot thrown at us this year, so we were in a sense well-trained for this event,” Nash stated. “But you never want to see someone like James who is such an important player, such an incredible player and cares so much. I’m heartbroken for him.
“I don’t know what’s going to occur. I don’t know if he’s taking part in the subsequent sport. I don’t know if he’s out. I don’t know. This man was so prepared and excited to play. You know the preparation he places in, you understand how a lot he cares concerning the sport, how a lot he cares concerning the crew. You by no means wish to see that — somebody who offers every part they’ve towards this.”
Brooklyn’s performance does not alleviate the concern it has moving forward regarding Harden’s availability. The Nets might be able to win this series and even the next one. But it’s that much more difficult without him.
“It sucks. It simply sucks,” Durant said. “I need him to be on the market. I understand how a lot he cares. I understand how a lot he needs to be on this second. Wish him a speedy restoration. We’re going to maintain him concerned as a lot as potential. But it’s only a unhealthy break.”
The Bucks shot just 20% on 3-pointers (6-for-30), and Durant said, “I do know they’re not going to overlook that many pictures.”
Nash didn’t know the severity of Harden’s injury, but certified athletic trainer Jeff Stotts, who tracks player injuries in a database, tweeted, “He was going to be at an elevated danger for recurrence for the rest of the season, particularly since he already aggravated the damage web site throughout his preliminary rehab. Data reveals the typical time misplaced will increase with every subsequent pressure.”
That could be bad news for the Nets and Harden, who missed 21 of the final 24 regular-season games with a strained hamstring.
“We’ll need to see how we go right here and watching the movie and looking at our rotations and our choices,” Nash said, “and see what buttons we can push and persevere.”
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.