After looking unbeatable, despite the loss of James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets took a turn for the worst as they lost two ugly and unlucky games in Milwaukee, changing the whole dynamic of this series.
After a 39-point victory over the Bucks in Game 2, the Bucks seemed to be on the ropes. Even though the Nets lost Game 3, both teams did not play great, and the Nets still had a chance to win at the end of the game. Game 4 has pretty much flipped this series around in more than one way.
Kyrie Irving suffering an ankle injury changes this series entirely, and with the already loss of Harden, Kevin Durant is put in a difficult position. Beyond the offensive capabilities of Irving and his ability to space the floor to help Durant and other role players find open shots, Irving has been solid on defense this series. He has proven to be strong enough to stay in front of Jrue Holiday and not let him get to the rim, and on top of that, he has been a pest attacking Khris Middleton’s poor handles.
The Nets don’t have “a great expectation” that Kyrie Irving plays in Game 5, per @wojespn
James Harden has made “progress” but could also miss Tuesday’s game pic.twitter.com/PDutp5QhK1
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 14, 2021
At this moment, it looks like both Harden and Irving will miss Game 5, leaving the Nets with no natural point guard, which will for sure change how the offense is run. Durant will be the sole focus of the Bucks defense, and it will be challenging for him to do anything, even more so if Game 5 is officiated the way Game 4 was.
"I thought it was borderline non-basketball physical at times."
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) June 13, 2021
P.J. Tucker and the Bucks were allowed to be as physical as they wanted with Durant, leading to Durant becoming frustrated. From the start of the game, Tucker was extremely physical, and when the referees did not call any fouls, it allowed the Busck to push the limits on what they could get away with. This forced Durant into another poor shooting night, going 9/25 scoring 28 points. The Bucks defense has adapted to him by being more physical and no longer dropping so deep when Durant is in the pick-and-roll.
In Game 4, the Nets stayed in this game until Irving’s injury, which put the game out of reach. Durant will need to have an incredible performance in Game 5 to keep the home-court advantage, but if the Nets’ role players don’t step up, it might not matter. Joe Harris was horrendous in Milwaukee and needs to come alive to help Durant in Game 5. Harris shot 1-11 in Game 3 and shot just 3-8 in Game 4. In-Game 4 alone, no other Net scored over 10 points other than Durant and Irving, and Irving was injured in the middle of the second quarter.
Blake Griffin also appeared to be hurt, as he did not play in the fourth quarter. He has been the only player to truly stand up against Giannis Antetokounmpo, which is not saying much as he scored over 30 points in every game other than in Game 2. Why Griffin sat out for so long is still unknown, but he will be necessary for the Nets in Game 5.
The momentum of this series has shifted, and with injuries playing a significant factor, the Nets are officially in must-win territory.
Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/NBAE via Getty Images