Going into this Eastern Conference semifinal series, it looked like the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t stand a chance against Brooklyn Nets and their three-headed snake offense (sorry KD and Kyrie stans, pun not intended but welcomed).
But with James Harden and Kyrie Irving both now injured, leaving Kevin Durant to carry the weight of expectations, Brooklyn’s super-team status has dissipated.
Kyrie Irving won’t play Game 5 due to an right ankle sprain https://t.co/dThWRDlfIA — Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 14, 2021
Here’s a quick look at how the injuries (however unfortunate for the Nets) serve as good news to the other contenders.
Nets momentum swing
Brooklyn was seconds away from going three-nil up in the series against Milwaukee but they ran out of luck in the closing one minute, twenty seconds.
And they probably would have done it if Bruce Brown didn’t opt to take a heavily contested layup rather than find one of two open teammates.
As a result, Brooklyn lost game three and their winning momentum; but that wouldn’t be all they lost.
📊 Final 📊 pic.twitter.com/yLA0vDD9oB — Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) June 13, 2021
The tight loss in game three was followed by a bigger one in the fourth game, the same game they lost Kyrie Irving to an ankle injury.
Brooklyn Nets lost a two-game lead, two of their three-star players, and their status as undisputed favorites.
There are also reports of assistant coach, Mike D’antoni’s interest in other projects. Another potential loss and mid-playoffs distraction.
Brooklyn Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni is interviewing for the Portland Trail Blazers coaching job today, sources tell ESPN. Two more assistant coaches — the Clippers’ Chauncey Billups and the Spurs’ Becky Hammon — are set to interview with Portland early this week, too. — Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 14, 2021
With the series now tied at 2-2, Milwaukee Bucks have the upper hand and are more likely to win the best of three, unless Kevin Durant can say no.
Can Durant put up a one-man show?
One of the biggest criticisms of Kevin Durant’s stellar 14-year NBA career so far is his inability to lead a team as the lone superstar. He’s mostly always been part of a double or triple threat and perceived around the league as someone that always needs help.
With James Harden and Kyrie Irving unavailable for the foreseeable future (game five at least) all of KD’s help will come from Joe Harris and Blake Griffin.
This means he would have to do a lot of the work by himself and finally prove once and for all that he doesn’t need help every time.
Kevin Durant on his role without Kyrie Irving and James Harden: “I have to be prepared to do everything out there just like I have to do every night.” — Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) June 14, 2021
As it stands, Brooklyn Nets need a Kevin Durant masterclass or a Milwaukee Bucks disaster class, or both to pull through to the Eastern Conference finals.
In conclusion, the unfortunate injuries to James Harden and Kyrie Irving are good news to everyone not affiliated with the Brooklyn Nets. Seems like a mean thing to say but it levels the playing field and makes for more unpredictable games.
Although that’s not to say Brooklyn was unbeatable before the injuries, their defensive frailties were obvious and exploitable but not to Milwaukee. The Bucks would be on the brink of elimination if Brooklyn were at full strength and they will the most grateful for the injuries.