NEW YORK — The Brooklyn Nets’ Big Three has been whittled down to just one — Kevin Durant — for a pivotal Game 5 of their second-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.
Kyrie Irving has been ruled out of the contest at Barclays Center after an MRI confirmed that he suffered a sprained right ankle in Sunday’s Game 4. James Harden, who strained a hamstring in Game 1, also remains out.
Coach Steve Nash said he has “no idea” whether Irving will be available to play later in this Eastern Conference semifinal series, which is tied at 2-2 after consecutive Bucks wins.
“I have to wait and see how it progresses, I think,” Nash said. “And then the experts would have to wait and see how it progresses and give you a clearer picture on what the window would be for his return.”
Irving was injured midway through the second quarter Sunday when he landed awkwardly on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot after making a layup over Jrue Holiday. Antetokounmpo crashed the paint in what appeared to be an attempt to help Holiday, who was the primary defender.
Nash said that while he didn’t want to predict Antetokounmpo’s intentions on the play, it appeared to be “awkward.”
“I know he ended up getting under Kyrie while he was in the air,” Nash said. “I think it would be a big stretch for me to sit here and say he meant to do that in any way. I don’t believe that’s the type of person he is, nor is [it] what I believe happened. It was awkward and unfortunate.”
Irving remained on the ground for several minutes as Nash and the team’s athletic trainers attended to him. Irving walked to the locker room without assistance but was limping.
Kendrick Perkins says Kevin Durant will have to show he is the best player in the world for the Nets to beat the Bucks without James Harden or Kyrie Irving.
Nash said that Harden, who has been sidelined since June 5, was working out as he was speaking to reporters Monday. On Sunday, Nash said that the team would try to approach the injuries as isolated incidents and not let Irving’s ankle sprain rush Harden back to the floor before his hamstring is fully healed. Before Sunday’s game, Nash said that Harden was doing on-court work, shooting and still working through his rehabilitation. Nash said that while Harden was progressing toward a return, he still needed to complete several high-intensity workouts without any regression before being cleared to play.
The Nets have battled injuries all season. Durant has played in five games this season without both Harden and Irving. In those games, he averaged nearly 34 points per game, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He shot an efficient 63% from the floor.
“I’ve just got to be prepared to do everything out there just like any night,” Durant said Monday.
The Nets won four of the five games in which Durant was the sole member of the Big Three to play. Brooklyn won those games by an average of 9.4 points.
“We definitely wasn’t planning on not having our guys at this time,” Durant said. “But, we’re all pros and we have to adapt to any situation … In the fifth game of a series, it’s just like, ‘All right, let’s go play.’ So, I think we all have that mentality and go forward and hoop.”