The Brooklyn Nets will be without both Kyrie Irving and possibly James Harden as well for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night at Barclays Center. Irving has been listed as out on the team's status report while Harden's status was updated to doubtful and then to questionable on Tuesday after initially being listed as out on Monday.
Harden has been out since suffering a hamstring strain in the first minute of Game 1 against the Bucks, while Irving left Sunday’s Game 4 loss midway through the second quarter with a sprained right ankle. The series is now tied at two games apiece.
“It’s tough to lose great players,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “But we've lost guys all season. So if there's any silver lining is that we've continued to win games this year regardless of who's been available. We've been able to adapt on the fly, which is difficult to do sometimes. But for us, that's something we've had some experience with. We should have some comfort in belief that no matter who plays we can still perform and play well and be very difficult to beat. So I'm excited for our guys; great opportunity, no matter who plays to play in a really big playoff game at home and improve from the last game.”
This is something Brooklyn has seen before. Irving, Harden and Kevin Durant notably played a total of eight games and 202 minutes together during the regular season, and that didn’t stop the Nets from compiling a 48-24 record that earned them the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed.
Even as the Nets navigated roster and availability fluidity throughout the season, they compiled the most efficient offensive season in basketball history with an offensive rating of 117.3 points per 100 possessions. They were also second in the league with 118.6 points per game, first in field goal percentage (49.4) and second in 3-point percentage (39.2).
“I think we try to stick with our principles and our fundamentals which is connectivity, competitive spirit, embracing the opportunity and going out there and playing as a team,” said Nash. “This does not fall on Kevin. It falls on the Nets. We got to find a way together to play great basketball, both ends of the floor. We've proven we can do it. We had a great series offensively in the first two games, defensively for the most part and now we’ve got to put it together in a pivotal Game 5.”
Through nine playoff games, Durant is averaging 31.3 points on 50.3 percent shooting, including 42.6 from 3-point range, with 8.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game.
“For me, I’m not the one that’s injured,” said Durant. “For Kyrie and James, this is an opportunity for them to play at the highest level. And to not play because of injuries, I feel more for them than for me. It’s got nothing to do with me. I wish my brothers were out there playing. I wish they were healthy, but like you said, that’s a part of the game. We all understand that. We wish they were out there playing, but I know they’re going to be doing their best to get back on the floor and get healthy as fast as possible. That’s all we can hope for, and the rest of the guys who are healthy enough to play, we’ve got to come out there and play as hard as we can every possession. That’s always been the mantra for us every day is to play focused and disciplined basketball. But nothing changes. We wish our brothers were out there.”
JEFF GREEN RETURNS
Forward Jeff Green was a gameday decision before returning to action in Game 4 against Milwaukee on Sunday. Green had been out since leaving Game 2 of the first round series against Boston due to a plantar fascia strain.
“Tired. But I knew that was gonna happen,” said Green. “I’ve gotta find my rhythm sitting out that long. Especially for the players it’s tough to just bounce back in and try to come out and be who I was before the injury. The rhythm has to come. I wasn’t tired tired, but I got a little fatigued. It’s tough to replicate game-like situations especially with playoff intensity. It’ll come back. I’ve gotta get my rest and try to do whatever I can to help our team in Game 5.”
Steve Nash acknowledged before the game that there would be some minutes limits on Green if he played, and the 27 minutes he registered — with eight points and five rebounds — probably exceeded that after the Nets lost Kyrie Irving in the second quarter.
“He played a lot more minutes than we expected,” said Nash. “I think Kyrie going down we used his versatility to try different things. I'm proud of him for playing. He wasn't supposed to play today, a couple days ago, so for him to ratchet it up and get out there tonight was great. Unfortunately it was a tough night and Kyrie going down so early he had to play more but maybe this will, if it's not too provocative of the injury this will help him in subsequent games.”