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Nets’ James Harden’s status revealed for Game 4 vs Bucks

Nets, James Harden, Game 4, Bucks,

James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets has been ruled out for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Nets are citing improvements in Harden’s recovery, but not enough to get him on the court for Sunday afternoon’s game in Milwaukee.

The absence of James Harden was not keenly felt by the Nets in the first two games of this series. Brooklyn cruised to easy wins on its home floor at the Barclays Center. However, the shift to Wisconsin for Game 3 made Harden’s injury more of a factor.

The Nets certainly could have used Harden — and very likely would have won if he had been able to play — in Game 3 on Thursday. The favorites to win the East scored just 83 points and produced two quarters with fewer than 20 points. Brooklyn scored just 11 points in the first quarter and wasted a superb defensive performance against the Bucks, who were limited to 86 points and have generally failed to thrive on offense in this series.

The consensus on this series is that even with James Harden out of the lineup, the Nets are still likely to win in five games. Brooklyn was close to winning Game 3 on the road, not only in spite of Harden’s injury, but in the face of big performances from Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and second man Khris Middleton. Both men scored over 30 points on a night when all other Bucks failed to score at least 10 points.

The Nets have smothered the Bucks’ supporting cast in this series, and unless Milwaukee can get Jrue Holiday and other players on track, the Bucks still face an uphill battle in Game 4, even with James Harden unable to play.

Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer will be coaching for his job on Sunday, since a swift five-game elimination would very clearly show that the Bucks are several notches below the Nets in the East’s pecking order, leaving them much further from championship status than they hoped to be at this point in their evolution as a team.