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Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant was succinct with his feelings about James Harden’s injury during the team’s 115-107 Game 1 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.
“S–t sucks. It sucks,” Durant told reporters. “It sucks. Because I want him to be out there. I know how much he cares. I know how much he wants to be in this moment. It sucks. Wish him a speedy recovery. … It’s just a bad break.”
The Nets confirmed Harden suffered a right hamstring injury. Head coach Steve Nash said he hadn’t received any updates after the nine-time All-Star left Barclays Center for an MRI.
Perhaps the Nets can survive if Harden is forced to miss extended time during the postseason. Durant and Kyrie Irving combined for 54 points, while Blake Griffin had one of his best games (18 points, 14 rebounds, two steals) since joining the team.
But Durant’s comments alluded to how this might be Harden’s best shot at an NBA title to date after having fallen short with the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets couldn’t advance past the Western Conference Finals, and Harden made it abundantly clear in January he wanted out because he no longer saw a path to a championship in Houston.
The Nets, on the other hand, finished second in the Eastern Conference despite their three best players not getting to spend all that much time together on the floor. Durant, Harden and Irving logged 202 minutes over eight games, per NBA.com.
Despite that relative lack of continuity, Brooklyn outclassed the Boston Celtics in the first round. The team’s Big Three combined to average 85.2 points per game in the series.
The Nets Big 3 averaged a combined 85.2 points this playoffs.
To put that in perspective, the 1999 Knicks (who went to the Finals) averaged 85.0 as a team. pic.twitter.com/lCCizfDbep
The Nets’ victory Saturday is a testament to how strong the roster can be even with Harden unavailable.
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With James Harden going down early in Game 1, the non-Big 3 for the Nets stepped up.
They scored 61 points tonight after averaging 38.2 points in the 1st round.
They also made 11 3-pointers after averaging just 5 per game in the 1st round. pic.twitter.com/iPbPsnldur
Whether that’s sustainable against the Bucks remains to be seen.
Durant also knows how deflating injuries can be at this stage of the year after his calf injury and eventual ruptured Achilles tendon hung over the Warriors’ 2019 run to the NBA Finals.