One game in the Association on Tuesday, but it’s a massive game that’s provided all kinds of drama before we even get to tipoff. Game 4 couldn’t have taken a worse turn for the Nets, once up 11 points in the second quarter, Brooklyn gave up its lead and lost Kyrie Irving to an ankle sprain.
Irving was ruled out for Game 5 on Monday, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Brooklyn is prepared to be without the guard for the remainder of the series. Here’s where things get fun.
James Harden, who re-injured his hamstring less than a minute into Game 1, was also initially ruled out for Game 5 after missing virtually the entire series to date. After being upgraded to doubtful on Tuesday morning, the Nets have upgraded Harden once again, this time to questionable — but multiple reports indicate he does plan to play.
EDITOR’S NOTE: James Harden (hamstring) will be available to play in tonight’s game vs. the Bucks, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
So after all this, let’s get into some bets, operating under the assumption Harden makes his return.
I’ve been all aboard the Nets all season long, and if the ship goes down, I’m going down with it. Brooklyn’s had some very unfortunate injury luck in this series, and we’ve seen other stars across the league not look themselves when battling through injury. The only thing we can’t have here is Harden pull an Anthony Davis — leaving about six minutes into a Game 6 loss to the Suns, clearly unable to play through his injury.
It’s more of a gut feeling, but I think the Davis’ groin injury was more serious, while the Nets have taken more caution with Harden because he’s been dealing with this hamstring at different stages all season.
He hurt the hammy on March 31 and tried to return on just four days rest and was unable to, leaving a game against the Knicks after just four minutes. That’s when the Nets made the decision to rest him for about five weeks, and he returned in a limited role for the final two regular-season games.
This is a little bit different than the first return, as Harden should have nearly 10 full days of rest since he last took the floor. The hamstring still may be a ticking time bomb for my Nets futures, but I do feel he has a much stronger chance of making it through this game and being effective than the perception is.
Let’s not forget that the Bucks are averaging 96.5 points per game in this series. The combination of sharp Nets’ defense (which takes a slight step back in Harden’s return), along with too much jump shooting by Giannis Antetokounmpo and an overall lack of ball movement as a team has led to real problems for Milwaukee. The Nets scored 115 and 125 points in the first two games in Brooklyn, and that was with Irving in over Harden.
Kevin Durant is due for a big game, and might even be in line for some fortunate whistles with the series shifting back home. Brooklyn’s role players no-showed in Milwaukee, particularly sharpshooter Joe Harris, who shot 4-for-19 from the field. Jeff Green, who hadn’t played in the series, did return and played 27 impactful minutes in Game 4. I expect Brooklyn to be able to claw this one out.
With Harden on the floor, if there’s a prop fade, I’d look at Mike James unders. I got in on them early, and the market has since hammered his unders, but it’s going to be tough for him to play much if Harden doesn’t get re-injured. James broke out in Game 1, but since then he is averaging 5.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists — and that’s with Kyrie on the floor over Harden, who’s less ball-dominant. James also saw his minutes spike in the second half of Game 4 when Harden and Kyrie were out, and he still didn’t perform.
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