Nets rue injuries as season ends prematurely
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Unraveled by injuries and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Brooklyn Nets’ season that looked destined for at least the Eastern Conference Finals ended with a thud in the second round, a 115-11 overtime thriller of a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night in Brooklyn.
Ultimately, 2021 is now a campaign that fell woefully short for a team that was expected by many to represent the East in the NBA Finals as Kevin Durant just couldn’t get the Nets — who were firmly on his back — over the finish line.
He was the last healthy standing member of the Nets’ “Big 3” that was clicking as Kyrie Irving missed Games 5-7 after rolling his ankle on Antetokounmpo’s foot while James Harden toughed out 22 points, nine boards, and nine assists while dealing with a Grade 2 hamstring strain.
“I can’t even speak about how much we missed Kyrie out on the floor and how much we miss James to start the series,” Durant said. “And seeing him, you know, I could go for 40 minutes on both of those two, on how much they care about us and how much they put their bodies on the line and help us out as a team.
“Kyrie had a gruesome ankle injury, and he was thinking about when is when could he play next. And that shows that he cares about us so much. James playing on one leg came out there and gave it his all, 48 minutes in Game 5, 40 last game, and then what, 50 tonight, you know? There’s nothing but respect and love for those two guys; we missed them out there. But we still had a chance to win.”
It was still too much for the Nets to handle as head coach Steve Nash reflected on the universe seemingly working against his team.
“I knew it was possible, especially with all the stuff we faced,” Nash said. “You’re missing Kyrie, James is on one leg, you have to understand it’s not the same. And so I still thought we could win it and clear, I think we proved that we could. The game could have gone either way. You always know there’s a chance. Anything could happen. I think we just faced one too many obstacles this year because I thought our guys gave it everything they had.”
Durant did everything he possibly could have, following up a historic triple-double in Game 5 with 48 points on Saturday night — the most ever in a Game 7 — while playing all 53 minutes.
But it wasn’t enough to get by Antetokounmpo’s 40 points in 50 minutes, as Durant’s game-winning three-point attempt in the final seconds missed everything to secure the Bucks’ advancement and leave the Nets sifting through the rubble.
“So many emotions. Just me personally, like, it’s frustrating for myself just being durable and being myself for the last so many postseasons,” Harden said. “Just dealing with this particular hamstring, it’s just, it’s frustrating. I’m frustrated. We did everything we could towards the end. Just frustrated. But give the Bucks credit. They fought to the end. Had a hell of a series. Just came up short.”
“We want to win. We want to win every game we play. We want to win a championship every year just like every team so the last game of the season we lose,” Durant added. “But the beauty of our profession is we get up and keep going. Everybody on this team works extremely hard. They care about the game. So we get ready for next year.”