Brooklyn Nets fans and bettors witnessed a scary sight early in the team’s Game 1 win over the Milwaukee Bucks as James Harden grabbed his hamstring after driving to the basket. Harden left the game and would not return. The Nets have already ruled him out for Game 2.
Harden aggravated a hamstring injury in the regular season by rushing back to the floor and eventually had to miss 18 games over a month to fully recover. While he’s listed as day-to-day by the Nets, this injury could keep him out for a while.
Brooklyn winning Game 1 helped ease some pressure on Harden to let the injury heal. The Nets certainly won’t rush him back after what happened in the regular season and Brooklyn’s other stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving looked solid in the win. Blake Griffin and Joe Harris stepped up offensively and the Nets put together a strong defensive performance to close out the win.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook. the Nets are still the favorite to win the East and the NBA title. Many would expect Harden to come back at some point, but can the Nets still win without him?
During the 18-game stretch Harden missed in the regular season, the Nets went 10-8 with the fourth-best offense in the league. Their defense was ranked 21st in efficiency, which is about in line with their full season rank. The Nets had the best offensive rating in the league for the whole season, showing they can reach another gear with Harden in the lineup.
Harden balled out against the Boston Celtics, putting up 27.8 points and 10.6 assists per game on 50-40-90 shooting. The Nets will certainly want to have him back for the Finals if they get to that point. Harden’s biggest attribute was allowing the Nets to have a star on the floor at all times if the rotations were managed correctly. That’s more of a luxury than a necessity.
Milwaukee is probably Brooklyn’s stiffest challenger left, especially if Harden is out. If the Nets can get past this series without Harden rushing back, Brooklyn should be able to handle any other team. Harden’s presence makes them heavy title favorites but his absence doesn’t diminish their roster, which is still a championship caliber group without him.