The Nets took down the Bucks in the first game of the Eastern Conference semi-finals last night. While the win was nice, it came at a cost. James Harden exited the game before it hardly got going. When Harden will be back, we don’t know. We know the Nets proved they could win without him if needed, but it would be astronomically less difficult with him.
James Harden Injury
James Harden walked to the locker room after appearing to injure his hamstring on his first drive of Game 1. pic.twitter.com/drDfqQovVK— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 5, 2021
Harden left in the first quarter of game one last night with appearing to reaggravated the hamstring that kept him sidelined for a portion of the year with Brooklyn. Harden, a durable player over the years, walked off the court, and it was reported by the TNT broadcast in the second quarter of the game that he had left the arena and was heading to get an MRI. Hopefully, this is nothing that will keep him out long term, but if it is, the Nets will be down but not out.
In case some forgot, the Nets still have Kevin Durant, who dropped 29 points, and Kyrie Irving, who dropped 25 of his own against the Bucks in game one. More than that, Blake Griffin entered god mode (for this point in his career.) He had 18 points and 14 rebounds while shooting four of nine from behind the three-point line. Joe Harris added 19 of his own points as well. This team has shooting, and although they struggled with the Bucks in the regular season, they competed. KD and Kyrie have been here before. The Nets are going to have to lean on them until they can get Harden back.
What Will Look Different
James Harden would usually run the second unit, so the big three could be staggered. It looks like Kyrie will be taking over that role if Steve Nash sticks with what he was doing last night. Bruce Brown will be a spark plug for this team and will likely step into the starting role while Harden is out. If Brown does not step into the role, it will likely be Nicolas Claxton, the second-year big man out of Georgia. A tall task, but his number is now getting called, and sometimes you have to step up. Mike James played 30 minutes last night and could very well step into the role as well. He is a shooter, but sometimes he thinks he’s a better shooter than he is. I have seen this guy get hot and knock down everything. Also, I have seen him go so cold that I am not sure why he was signed.
Claxton, Mike James, and Brown will likely have the biggest change in roles moving forward. The Nets are in trouble without Harden but winning game one was huge. What they do moving forward will be interesting, but it will really just all depend on KD and Kyrie leading them until Harden can come back. They can’t rely on that Griffin performance or that Mike James performance every night. Hopefully, this is just a hiccup, and Harden will be ready to go sooner than later.