The Nets’ trip to Milwaukee couldn’t have gone much worse, and now, they’ll be without Kyrie Irving for Game 5 on Tuesday night in Brooklyn (8:30 p.m. ET).
Not only did they drop both Games 3 and 4 to see their second-round series against the Bucks, allowing them to draw level at two games apiece in the best-of-seven affair, the Nets lost a second member of their “Big 3” in Irving, who suffered an ankle injury when he landed awkwardly on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot in the second quarter after going up for a lay-up on Sunday.
The Nets are already without James Harden, who reaggravated a hamstring injury just 43 seconds into Game 1 of their series against the Bucks — and watching Irving walk off the court didn’t help the Nets’ psyche in Game 4.
“Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe that was in play a little bit. We didn’t execute very well and I think that was the gut punch,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said. “But yeah, it’s never going to be easy. It’s the playoffs. We are going to face adversity. We have to allow the adversity to make us stronger instead of hanging our heads.”
“It’s always deflating when one of our guys go down but like we always have been through the year it’s next man up,” Nets veteran forward Jeff Green said. “They went on a run and we just didn’t bounce back. There’s no excuses. Everybody’s prepared, everybody’s ready. Just glad it’s just a sprain and nothing more and hopefully he can heal up in the next 48.”
Initial x-rays on Irving’s ankle came back negative, but his status for Game 5 was not discovered until Monday night.
That potentially leaves Kevin Durant and Joe Harris to carry the scoring load alongside a supporting cast that is no stranger to stepping up in the absence of stars. After all, the Nets were able to stay afloat during the regular season despite large spells of absences by all three of Irving, Harden, and Durant.
Granted, the Nets are holding out home that Harden can return to the fold sooner rather than later.
“All the complementary guys have got to play and be aggressive and confident – so, we’re going to need everyone to give it a great effort, especially if Ky can’t play,” Nash said. “And then [Harden], I think it’s an independent case. Like, I don’t want James to be rushed back. If he’s able to play next game or the game after, that’s fantastic. If he’s not, we don’t want to rush him back and jeopardize doing something worse or making this a long-term injury.
“So, we’ll see. We will have to take all these things into account and evaluate them and try to make a smart decision.”