The Brooklyn Nets lost Kyrie Irving midway through the second quarter and the Milwaukee Bucks seized the momentum to start the second half as the Nets lost Game 4 at Fiserv Forum 107-96 on Sunday afternoon. They’ll return to Barclays Center for Tuesday’s Game 5 with the Eastern Conference semifinals tied at two games apiece.
The Nets were already without James Harden, who has not appeared in a game since leaving Game 1 in the opening minute with hamstring tightness. Irving had 11 points and five rebounds when he left the game with 5:52 remaining in the first half and the Nets trailing 44-40 after his right foot landed on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot as he landed after making a layup. At halftime, Irving was declared out for the game with a right ankle sprain.
Milwaukee then opened the second half with a 13-2 run as the Nets made just one of their first 11 shots and scored two points over the first 5:50 of the half, with the Bucks building a 16-point lead.
“Obviously, we lost a great player during the game which was tough,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “We didn’t play particularly well. I thought we had a pretty good start. I thought we dropped a little bit, they got going on some transition breakdowns, they started to get some three balls going and some offensive rebounds, some fifties, got a little separation at half. And then we struggled in the second half. So, we missed him, obviously. It was a big adjustment tonight to play without him and James, but we’ve had that type of year. So, we have to find a way to figure it out, to look at the tape and get better.”
Kevin Durant was the only other Net to score in double figures, finishing with 28 points and 13 rebounds for his third double-double of the series. After Milwaukee’s run to open the second half, Durant scored 16 of Brooklyn’s final 17 points of the third quarter to get the Nets back within nine points. But overall, the Nets shot just 43.4 percent and 30.3 percent from 3-point range.
“We all have to pitch in, we’ve all got to play together, we have to move the ball,” said Nash. “And I thought tonight, we got a little single-minded. Went to Kevin every time, puts a little bit too much pressure on him and it makes us a little predictable, I thought, which puts a lot of burden on him. So, we’ve got plenty of guys that have stepped up in absences this year and done very well. I think we have to rely on each other, play a team game with the ball, and of course we are looking for Kevin as much as we can, but within reason and without confining ourselves and being predictable.”
The Nets and Bucks traded runs early on. Landry Shamet’s 3-pointer started a 13-0 Brooklyn run that stretched from the end of the first quarter to the opening minutes of the second. Irving closed the first quarter with a steal and layup and Jeff Green opened the second quarter with two free throws. Irving and Mike James made 3-pointers and the Nets were up 34-23.
But the Bucks followed with a 19-2 run to take a 44-38 lead and the Nets trailed 53-48 at halftime. Durant kept them in range going into the fourth quarter, but an 8-0 run extended Milwaukee’s lead to 19, with Jrue Holiday’s 3-pointer making it 97-78 for the Bucks with 7:01 remaining in the game.
The Nets left Brooklyn last week with a 2-0 series lead. They’ll return for a crucial Game 5 with the series even and status uncertain on Irving and Harden.
“The message is keep our heads up,” said Nash. “Now it's a three-game series. We’ve got to get home and rest up, get our mind and bodies right and study the film and try to put out our best performance on Tuesday. It's simple. Stay positive. We've had an adverse season, a lot of things have happened, we remained positive and that's what got us through the season so we have to have that same mentality here and find a way to solve some puzzles and preserve.”