The Brooklyn Nets were hampered with injuries all regular season and their old ghosts are coming back to haunt them in this year’s NBA playoffs. The domino effect began in the Nets’ Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup with the Boston Celtics. In Game 2, Brooklyn’s veteran forward Jeff Green suffered a strained plantar fascia that would keep him out for the remainder of the Celtics series and the first three games of their series with the Bucks.
Green’s injury in the Celtics series was not viewed as a big deal for many. Not only because of who Green was as a player, but the Celtics as a team were also injury-riddled with All-Stars Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown on the injury report. However, losing James Harden and Kyrie Irving during this second-round matchup with the third-seeded Bucks is a much bigger deal.
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Nets Upgrade Harden to ‘Doubtful’ for Game 5
Harden has played a grand total of 43 seconds in the Nets series with the Bucks. ‘The Beard’ reaggravated his right hamstring during the opening possession of Game 1 in the series. As they have done all year, the Nets were overly cautious in managing Harden’s injury and have held him out throughout this series to avoid worsening the injury.
However, now that Kyrie has been ruled out for Game 5 with an ankle sprain, Harden is pushing harder than ever to return in hopes to aid in saving the Nets’ season. After being ruled out a day before the pivotal game, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Harden will test out his hamstring during pre-game shoot-around in hopes that he can suit up for Game 5.
“Harden is expected to test his hamstring in shoot-around today and has been determined to try and find a way to get cleared to play Game 5, sources tell ESPN,” Woj tweeted on Tuesday, June 15. “There are no guarantees on his status, but Harden is trying to play with series 2-2”
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Nash Believes Nets Are Prepared For This Moment
Injured hamstrings have been the Nets’ Achilles heel this season. Durant missed 23 games this season with a strained hamstring that he suffered during his return to Golden State on February 13. Likewise, Harden missed over a month of play with a strained hamstring that he suffered against the New York Knicks on April 5.
The Nets have dealt with injuries, retirements, and everything in-between with their roster this season. But what was once seen as a negative connotation throughout the season for the Nets may end up being Brooklyn’s saving grace. The Nets would rather be taking the court for Game 5 with a fully healthy roster, but Nets’ head coach Steve Nash believes that the silver lining is that their reserves have been prepared for this moment all season.
“It’s tough to lose great players but we’ve lost guys all season, so if there’s any silver lining, it’s we continued to win games regardless of who is available, we’ve been able to adapt on the fly which is difficult to do sometimes,” Nash said to reporters per NetsDaily. “But for us, that’s something we’ve had some experiences with. We should have some comfort and belief that no matter who plays, we can still perform, play well, and be very difficult tough to beat.”
Whether or not Harden will play in Game 5 remains to be seen. With the Nets season hanging in the balance on Tuesday, a total team effort will be needed for all 48 minutes to secure a victory.