The Milwaukee Bucks knotted the Brooklyn Nets at two games apiece, defending their home court after falling behind 2-0 in New York.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the game with 34 points and 12 rebounds while Kevin Durant had 28 points but only shot 9-25 for the losers. P.J. Tucker was Durant’s primary defender and limited him to 3-12 shooting when matched up with the former MVP and two-time champion.
Brooklyn Head Coach Steve Nash was not a fan of Tucker’s suffocating and physical defense, feeling that the Bucks’ defensive weapon should have been penalized for his play.
“I thought it was borderline non-basketball physical at times,” said Nash after the conclusion of Game Four.
Kyrie Irving Injury
Perhaps the biggest storyline from Brooklyn’s loss was the ankle injury suffered by Kyrie Irving, who looks ready to miss time for the second-straight postseason. Irving went down with 6:06 left in the second quarter after landing one-footed on Antetokounmpo’s shoe, causing his foot to pronate to a nearly 90-degree angle. The Nets’ guard remained down as play continued around him until the whistle was blown 14 seconds later and he could be helped off the court.
Irving X-rays back in the locker room revealed there were no fractures, and he was diagnosed with an ankle sprain— he later left Fiserv Forum in crutches and a walking boot.
The 2021 NBA playoffs have been riddled with injuries, plaguing nine current and former All-Stars thus far. Irving is now the latest to join the list and does not look likely to play for the rest of the series, or potentially the playoffs at all.
Durant was left to fight Milwaukee largely by himself following Irving’s exit from the game but could not overcome the extra pressure that was sent his way. KD went 6-19 from the field and 0-6 from three after his teammate was forced out and now appears to be in jeopardy of getting eliminated from the playoffs after Brooklyn had been considered a shoe-in for the NBA Championship.
The Nets still have an ace in the hole in James Harden, who has only played one minute so far this series after a hamstring injury was reaggravated in Game One. Harden missed 14 regular-season games because of his hamstring despite being a model of consistency for most of his career, and a return from his current ailment is unknown.
Irving and Durant signed with Brooklyn as free agents two summers ago and were joined by Harden this January with the expectation of competing for a championship but have now devolved into a one-man-band. Durant will have to lead his squad to two wins in their next three games against a team that features Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday.
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Game Five at the Barclays Center
One advantage for the reeling Nets is that Game Five will be held at the Barclays Center, where they are 2-0 in the series and 5-0 in the postseason. Jeff Green is also back in action after a left plantar fascia strain sustained in Game Two of the Nets-Celtics series held him out for just under three weeks.
Brooklyn will either be forced to start Mike James, who has been back in the NBA for just over a month, or Green will join a starting five that does not have a point guard.
Everything is to play for in Game Five: if the Bucks win, the series will be virtually out of hand, whereas a Brooklyn victory would put a mountain of pressure on the “Greek Freak” and his Milwaukee teammates who are yet to live up to their regular-season hype in the playoffs.
With the extent of Irving’s injury remaining unknown and Nash sharing that the Nets are “crossing our fingers,” this series has become all the more intriguing.
Game Five will take place in Brooklyn, New York at 8:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, June 15.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.