Nets’ James Harden loss means more falls to Kevin Durant

Forty-three awful seconds. Forty freakin’ three. The Nets’ Big 3 couldn’t even make it via one minute of what was anticipated to be a sequence for the ages with the Bucks earlier than James Harden took that lonely stroll off the court docket and down the tunnel, disappearing into the night.

Who is aware of how lengthy Harden shall be gone, and the way lengthy the Nets can survive with out him? His coach, Steve Nash, stated after the Nets’ 115-107 victory in Game 1 that he didn’t have the outcomes of an MRI examination on Harden’s injured proper hamstring, which price him 18 straight video games close to the top of the common season. Anyone who has ever injured a hamstring at any stage of sport understands how straightforward it’s to damage one, and the way exhausting it’s to totally recuperate from one.

But after the primary act of the Eastern Conference semis, this a lot was clear: Harden’s harm — deflating because it is perhaps — presents a legacy alternative for Kevin Durant as large because the Barclays Center and as broad as KD’s wingspan.

Durant completed Game 1 with 29 factors and 10 rebounds. Kyrie Irving completed with 25 factors and eight assists, together with a sweet-music, over-the-shoulder go to Durant on the break that led to a dunk and a 107-93 lead with 6:24 to play, almost blowing the roof off the place.

Kevin Durant slams one home during the Nets' 115-107 Game 1 win over the Bucks.
Kevin Durant slams one residence throughout the Nets’ 115-107 Game 1 win over the Bucks.
Corey Sipkin

Remember, in the summertime of 2019, it was supposed to be Durant and Irving alone main the Nets to a championship after Durant returned from his devastating Achilles harm. Harden wasn’t a part of the plan again then. And he may not be a part of the plan proper now.

Before Nets followers have been even snug of their seats, Harden executed a crossover dribble on Jrue Holiday, drove to the basket as Brook Lopez came visiting to assist, and grimaced as he jumped and fired a high-corner go to Joe Harris. Harden grabbed at his proper leg as he walked out of bounds, then kicked out his leg as if to shake one thing off in entrance of the Bucks’ bench. He ignored his project on the subsequent play.

After the Bucks opened the scoring on the opposite finish, the Nets referred to as timeout with 11:17 left, and Harden was accomplished.

“I’m heartbroken for him,” Nash stated.

Said Durant: “It just sucks. 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’s just a bad situation, man. I hate that it had to happen to him right now.”

Before the Nets put Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in a 1-0 gap, Durant stated one thing attention-grabbing on his podcast within the wake of the conquest of the Celtics. He revealed that he’s beginning to “tally mark the matchups” with nice gamers he has confronted within the playoffs, together with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Tim Duncan, and that Boston’s younger Jayson Tatum is now worthy of inclusion within the group.

This is how the all-timers preserve rating in each sport — with head-to-head comparisons, together with totals of titles received. Durant, 32, remains to be climbing the leaderboard. He has two championship rings, and a chance to shut the hole on James, who has no likelihood this summer season — after his Lakers have been expelled by the Suns — to add to his 4.

Irving, a Nets fan whereas rising up in New Jersey, received one with James in Cleveland and now desperately desires to nail down a second for the hometown crowd. But if Durant can beat Antetokounmpo on this best-of-seven, he would be the greatest winner, since he’ll go down as probably the most vital historic determine of the Big 3.

It shall be fascinating to see how he performs in opposition to the Greek Freak the remainder of the sequence, although Nash stated the Nets will cowl the reigning two-time MVP by committee. It had higher be a hell of a committee. Antetokounmpo, who averaged 39.6 factors and 10.6 rebounds in opposition to the Nets in three regular-season video games, completed with 34 factors and 11 rebounds Saturday.

“It’s cool to compete against the best at this stage, this part of the season,” Durant had stated. “It’s always fun challenging yourself against some of the best.”

As a lot as LeBron James is chasing Michael Jordan, who might be uncatchable, Durant is chasing James, who can also be in all probability uncatchable. But that is the big-picture recreation that superstars play. Durant understands he shall be judged on the variety of trophies in his case. He gave himself an opportunity to beat James in two Golden State-Cleveland finals, and now in Brooklyn he has given himself an opportunity to lower his 4-2 ring deficit to 4-3.

A fragile hamstring wanted simply 43 seconds to compromise the mission. But on the legacy scoreboard, if the Nets can remove Antetokounmpo’s Bucks, Harden’s ache is perhaps Kevin Durant’s achieve.

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