Kevin Durant’s Brooklyn Nets successfully fought back and earned a 114-108 win against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Despite securing a crucial victory, it still wasn’t a perfect game for the Nets because they committed a mistake that could’ve been avoided in the first place.
Ahead of Game 5, Nets star James Harden was initially ruled out due to his lingering hamstring injury, but he was eventually cleared to play. On the floor, it was evident the former MVP wasn’t playing like his usual self due to the injury.
Even so, Harden played the second-most minutes (46) behind Durant (all 48) and was limited to a total of five points on 1-of-10 shooting from the field and 0-of-8 from beyond the arc. His horrendous shooting was certainly a result of him not being close to 100% healthy, and he clearly couldn’t move well at all on either end of the court.
On the bright side, Harden still found other ways to contribute by recording six rebounds and eight assists for the Nets even though his shots weren’t falling. Despite his production in other areas on the floor, the negatives still outweighed the positives that the Nets gained from allowing Harden to see action, and they were lucky the Bucks didn’t take more advantage of him being gimpy and that he didn’t get hurt again.
Yes, Brooklyn needed more firepower, especially on the offensive end, as Kyrie Irving will most likely be out for the remainder of the series due to an ankle sprain that he sustained in Game 4. Despite missing one of their biggest contributors, choosing to play an injured Harden was still a huge gamble to take for the Nets.
On the flip side, choosing to not allow Harden to play would have also given extra opportunities for the other Nets guards like Bruce Brown, Landry Shamet, and Mike James to allow them to gain more confidence on the floor.
Needless to say, Harden is a huge piece of the team. Brooklyn will need him to perform at his best in the succeeding rounds in order to win a title. Certainly enough, the Nets won’t be able to achieve that if they continue to allow him to play despite nursing a hamstring injury.
Luckily for Steve Nash and his men, Harden managed to stay healthy throughout the contest and Durant lit up the scoreboard with a monster performance of 49 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists. Jeff Green and Blake Griffin also added 27 and 17 points, respectively.
Indeed, the Nets got a lucky break from the situation and have successfully regained the series advantage once more. However, they would be wise to sit James Harden out in Game 6 now that momentum is already on their side as a precautionary measure in order to preserve him for the next round.
Despite everything, the entire Nets team still deserves credit for fighting back from a 17-point deficit in the second half to steal a crucial Game 5 victory. Most of that credit goes to Kevin Durant, who stepped up with a huge showing and delivered for his squad when it mattered the most. With or without a complete Big 3, the Nets are looking to secure their first Eastern Conference Finals berth since 2002-03 come Game 6.