Hot topics close

James Harden leaves early, but lots of other Nets are around to pick up the slack

The guard went to the locker room less than a minute into the contest. Brooklyn still rolled to a comfortable win over Milwaukee in Game 1.

James Harden's night was done after 43 seconds Saturday. The guard left Game 1 of the Nets' Eastern Conference semifinal vs. the Bucks after reinjuring his right hamstring on a drive to the basket.

He walked to the locker room and then out of Barclays Center to get an MRI.

NBA PLAYOFF BRACKET: Updated TV schedule, scores, results for Round 2

But because the Nets' roster boasts two other superstars and loads of depth, the team didn't stumble at all. 

Kevin Durant (29) and Kyrie Irving (25) combined for 54 points to lead a 115-107 victory that wasn't that close. Blake Griffin (18 points, 14 rebounds), Joe Harris (19 points) and Mike James (12 points in a season-high 30 minutes off the bench) also made big contributions.

"It's never easy to lose anybody, especially this time of the year where we just want to have fun playing basketball and playing the right way and competing at a high level," Irving said. "We're obviously out there for bigger reasons, so when you see the game be snatched away so early from one of our brothers, we feel for him and we just had to make a quick adjustment and just adjust from there."

In some respects, this was business as usual for the No. 2 seed in the East, because its Big Three played just eight games together during the regular season. They were all in the lineup for a first-round demolition of the Celtics. 

"We've had a lot thrown at us this year, so we were, in a sense, were well-trained for this event," coach Steve Nash said.

Harden missed 20 games during the regular season with a right hamstring strain. He suffered the injury March 31, returned for a game on April 5 and then was out again until May 12. Durant was limited to 35 games because of injuries and COVID-19. Irving played in 54 games. 

"We've, unfortunately, played like that for most of the season, at least since I've been here," Griffin told TNT. "Bruce Brown checked right in, did a great job, Landry (Shamet), Mike James. We've got guys that will step up take and that call. And, of course, Kevin and Kyrie do what they do."

KD and Kyrie also played heavy minutes in doing their thing. Durant logged 40 and Irving played 45. Turnaround time for both men will be minimal with Game 2 set for Monday.

Nash said that he didn't know whether Harden would be available for that contest.

"Heartbroken for him that he had to miss the night," Nash said. "This guy was so ready and excited to play tonight. And you know the preparation he puts in, you know how much he cares about the game, how much he cares about his team, so you never want to see that when someone gives everything they have towards this."

If Harden needs more time to heal, then Nash can use Brown, Shamet and James in his place. All three have started for Brooklyn this season, so it will feel very familar to them if they're called upon to pick up those minutes.

Similar shots