Harden has been out since game 1 with a hamstring injury. Kyrie just went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter of last night’s game. Now the series is tied 2-2 and it looks as if it’ll be KD and Blake Griffin vs. the Bucks.
If both Kyrie and Harden are out for the rest of the series, it’s hard to see KD being able to elevate that team and win two out of the next three games. And it certainly seems like Irving won’t be available any time soon: he was seen on crutches after leaving the game. They just now announced he’s out for game 5 (via Shams), which can’t be a good sign because of how quickly it happened. They’re not giving him any shot at playing in game 5. That’s not good. And Harden of course re-aggravated an earlier hamstring injury that caused him to miss 18 games during the regular season. He may not see the floor again this season.
It’s not looking good for the Nets. They were up 2-0 and looked like they might even sweep, now it looks like they might not win another game and get sent home.
Without Kyrie or Harden, PJ Tucker can continue to focus on making KD’s life miserable. Milwaukee will be fine with KD scoring 30 if he does it on something like 10-26 shooting (he was 9-25 for 28 points last night; Milwaukee will be absolutely thrilled if that’s what they can hold him to going forward). The Nets have no one else on that roster who can create their own buckets now. Guys like Joe Harris and Blake Griffin and Mike James are good when there’s 2-3 other superstars on the floor and the defense isn’t really focused on them. But now that they’re actually being asked to be difference-makers? I don’t know. It’s a tall order. The Nets are in real trouble here.
It has been a really long time since we’ve seen KD have to truly carry a team in the playoffs. For one, this is his first healthy postseason since 2018. In 2019, he was in and out of the lineup with injuries and eventually ruptured his achilles which caused him to miss the 2020 season. From when he joined the Warriors in 2017 to the moment Kyrie went down last night, he has been on some of the most stacked teams in NBA history. He hasn’t had to carry an inferior team in the playoffs since the 2016 Western Conference Finals when his Thunder blew the 3-1 lead to the Warriors. And let’s not forget, for the first nine years of his career he had Russell Westbrook who, say whatever you want about him, he’s won an MVP award on his own.
We’re about to see the “old” KD–Thunder KD. At least I think so. We’re about to see what he’s really made of here, when his team isn’t the overwhelming favorite—where he doesn’t have it easy. He has a lot to gain here in terms of legacy; if he goes off over the next few games and puts on some spectacular performances and leads the Nets to a win in this series, he might change a lot of people’s minds about him. And he doesn’t really have a lot to lose here, either, because nobody really expects the Nets to win this series now that Kyrie and Harden are hurt. I’m eager to see how KD responds to this situation.
The Kyrie injury combined with the Harden injury mean the playoffs are wide open. It looks likely we’ll have a Sixers-Bucks Eastern Conference Finals. We’ve got the Suns already into the conference finals in the West, with the Clippers and Jazz in a series that looks like it’ll go at least 6 games, possibly 7. That one’s still up in the air.
The Playoffs have just been ravaged by injuries. Mike Conley is out for Utah. Obviously the Lakers were dealing with injures. The Nuggets were missing Jamal Murray. The Celtics were missing Jaylen Brown. Now the Nets are decimated. Embiid, who is playing, is dealing with a partially torn meniscus.
And now Donovan Mitchell looks like he might not be 100%.
It really sucks. All these star players hurt, you hate to see it. I always go back to the 72-day offseason and I’m probably a broken record by now, but it’s tough to ignore the fact that all these injuries are happening and we just had the shortest offseason ever. I can’t help but draw the connection, especially for the Lakers, who played all four rounds in the bubble.
Is Kawhi going to continue being the luckiest player in NBA history and win another championship due to the fact that everybody else got hurt? It seems like that might be in the process of happening.
The Nets were the overwhelming favorites to win it all. Then the injuries happened. I took the Nets to beat the Lakers in the Finals. The Lakers are already out, and it looks like the Nets might be cooked–and it’s all due to injuries. This thing really is wide open now.