A second-round series that once appeared to be taking a straight, no-surprises trajectory has morphed more into what everyone expected Nets-Bucks to be: A gritty, back-and-forth slugfest featuring the league’s top two offenses.
With that has come plenty of drama.
Thursday’s Game 3, for example, saw Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant and Milwaukee’s P.J. Tucker get tangled in a heated exchange during which they got in each other’s faces before a swarm of players, coaches and security worked to deescalate the situation. The full fallout from that fracaus was still coming to light on Saturday night.
And then the saga seemed to take yet another turn ahead of Sunday’s Game 4.
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Was This P.J. Tucker’s Apology to Kevin Durant for Scuffle?
Durant’s squabble with Tucker was intense, with each spewing words at the other before the situation cooled down. But the two are both former Texas Longhorns, though they never overlapped in Austin (the 36-year-old Tucker was drafted in 2006, the same year the 32-year-old Durant arrived at Texas).
There’s clearly some respect between the two. Tucker said as much in 2019.
“I got the utmost respect for Kevin,” Tucker said two years ago, via The Undefeated. “I take pride in it. This is something I want to do. I can’t wait to guard Kevin Durant. Nobody wants to guard Kevin Durant. … Everybody dreams about scoring 30, getting the game-winner. No, no, no, not me. I love my role. I love what I do. … It sounds crazy, but this is my dream. I’m living my dream right now guarding Kevin Durant in the NBA playoffs.”
So was the fact that Tucker showed up for Sunday’s game at Fiserv Forum wearing a pair of sneakers from Durant’s signature line — as reported by ESPN’s Nick DePaula — a sign of respect? Was it Tucker trolling KD? Was it just the latest twist in a love-hate relationship between the two former Texas stars?
There’s a variety of ways to interpret the gesture by Tucker. Twitter users did their best to try to decode it.
And while we’re reading into things way too much, what to make of the fact that Tucker changed out of his KDs before the first half was over?
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Kyrie Irving Leaves Game 4 Early
Brooklyn’s Big Three of Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving has an argument to be made for being the best trio of stars ever assembled, but the biggest concern that surrounded them in the regular season has followed them into the postseason: Can they stay healthy?
So far, the answer to that question is a firm no. After playing only eight games together after the Nets traded for Harden in January, the Nets’ Big Three has been battered by injuries again.
Harden left Game 1 of the series with tightness in his right hamstring and hasn’t played since. And on Sunday, Irving left Game 4 in the second quarter with a right ankle sprain. Irving had landed awkwardly on a layup before going down to the ground and laying there for several moments. Nets team trainers tended to the seven-time All-Star before helping him off the floor.
Irving was ruled out for the remainder of Game 4, but his status going forward in the series was not immediately clear. The series next heads back to Brooklyn, where the Nets will host the Bucks on Tuesday in Game 5.