Nets Strike First Against Bucks Despite Losing James Harden To Hamstring Injury

Nets Strike First Against Bucks Despite Losing James Harden To Hamstring Injury

The highly anticipated second round of the NBA playoffs began Saturday night with a bang after James Harden suffered a right hamstring injury in the opening minutes of the Brooklyn Nets 115-107 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks. 

james Harden appeared to have sustained the injury while driving to the basket in transition. He grabbed the back of his right leg and walked into the locker room after being asked by Nets coach Steve Nash to take time off. "I didn't realize what happened until he started to leave the court," Nets forward J.J. Warren said. The Nets announced just before halftime that Harden would not return for Game 1, and he left Barclays Center to undergo an MRI exam. 

I just want to be there for him. I know how much he cares. It's just a bad break for everyone. I wish him a speedy recovery and we will involve him as much as possible. All I know is that he wants to be with me right now. 

Durant scored 29 points, 10 rebounds and three assists and Kyrie Irving contributed 25 points, five rebounds and eight assists. The 31-year-old Harden averaged 24.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 10.8 assists in a season he signed with Houston Rockets in January to the Nets. But Brooklyn, the Easts' second seed, has solidified since Harden's departure. The Nets went 29-7 with him in the lineup and 19-17 without him during the regular season. 

Nash juggled his lineup throughout the season, with Durant, Harden and Irving missing longer stretches at various points. In Game 1 Brooklyn relied on backup keeper Mike James who scored 12 points in 30 minutes and played 10 minutes in the first round win over the Boston Celtics. The Nets were able to play at their preferred pace and create high-percentage shots against a Bucks defense that was stifled by the Miami Heat in the first round. 

We've thrown a lot at ourselves this year, "said Nash, who noted at his news conference that the severity of Harden's injury was not yet known. "We have a sense of training for these events. 

James is an important player, an incredible player, and he takes care of everything. You never want to see someone like that. 

When you see a game taken away from one of our brothers, you feel for him, "Irving said. Brooklyn's first-year coach added that it was difficult to adjust to the game without Harden, but he was proud of the boys for not rattling. We came into the game and made sure everyone on the bench knew what situation we were in and how we had to play through it. If it continues like this tonight, he would feel his loss no matter what. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 34 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, but also recorded five turnovers and attempted only three free throws. The Bucks' Khris Middleton struggled off the field, making 6 of 23 shots and scoring 13 points. As a team, the Bucks made only 6 of 30 three-point attempts. 

Game 2 takes place Monday in Brooklyn. After failing to reach the finals in Houston for eight years, Harden is targeting the first championship of his career against Durant, Irving and the Nets. 

He has averaged 27.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 10.6 assists in the first round against the Celtics and concluded the series with several injured players, including Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker. To this point, Harden has enjoyed impeccable health throughout his post-season career. He has appeared in 134 playoff games during 12 postseason runs and has never missed a game due to injury. 

I was dealing with injuries, I was dealing with guys going down in the series. I had to deal with it just like everyone else in the team. In any other situation I would have a lot to say, "he said after retiring against the Celtics. I've dealt with that, too. 

At the end of the day, I don't care. All I care about is who is injured. All that matters is winning. Whatever we have to do to get that win. 

Milwaukee, the third-seeded Easts, moves into the Eastern Conference semifinals without guard Donte DiVincenzo, who suffered an ankle injury in the Heat's first round.

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