The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Brooklyn Nets 107-96 on Sunday and made it 2-2 in the semifinals of the NBA Eastern Conference, in a game marked by the injury of Kyrie Irving that could change the course of the series.
Driven by Giannis Antetokounmpo (34 points and 12 rebounds), the Bucks added their second straight victory in Milwaukee against the Nets who could not overcome the blow of losing Irving to a sprained right ankle.
The point guard’s retirement, which left Brooklyn without two of its three superstars, came in the second quarter with the game tied, when he added 11 points in 17 minutes.
Irving’s loss joins that of guard James Harden (hamstrings), who is unknown if he will be able to return in this series.
At the postgame press conference, coach Steve Nash explained that Irving’s X-ray test was negative but he will undergo additional testing to determine if he can make it into Game 5 on Tuesday.
“We have to see how he is tomorrow (…) Obviously we lost a great player during the game, that’s tough,” Nash said of the point guard, the team’s second leading scorer in the playoffs.
Kevin Durant, the only superstar available to the Nets, finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds that were insufficient to avoid defeat.
The Bucks, who were amply outscored in the first two games, posted a close first win Thursday to avoid a near-final 3-0 deficit, and now find themselves in a completely different scenario than a few days ago.
“When we left Brooklyn, we knew we had to work to win the next two games. We are very happy but we have to keep improving, “said Antetokounmpo.
– Nets on edge for Irving and Harden –
After a tight first quarter, the Nets took off with a 13-0 run that Milwaukee quickly managed to contain to get back up 37-36 thanks to two straight triples from the corner of veteran PJ Tucker.
Antetokounmpo, erratic again in the free throw launch (5/10), transmitted energy to his teammates to resist the powerful attack of the Nets.
The game, and perhaps the tie, took a turn six minutes before halftime when Kyrie Irving injured his right ankle after throwing under the basket and landing badly on Antetokounmpo’s foot.
“At first I thought he had hit his groin (…) We wish him a good recovery and hopefully he can be for the fifth game,” said the Greek.
The point guard was on the ground for a few moments between great gestures of pain and later withdrew to the locker room, limping ostensibly.
During the game break, which was led by Milwaukee 53-48, the Nets advanced that Irving would not return to the court “due to a sprained right ankle.”
The point guard’s injury joins that of another of the Nets superstars, James Harden, absent since the first game of this series with hamstring problems.
Steve Nash also did not confirm if Harden will be ready for the next games in the series. The coach stressed that they do not want to take risks with an injury that already had Harden out for weeks before the playoffs.
After the break, Antetokounmpo and his squires Khris Middleton (19 points) and Jrue Holiday (14) put in the direct to take advantage of the emotional blow of their rival.
With Antetokounmpo wreaking havoc in the zone, the Bucks took a swift 17-point lead as Durant tried to stop the bleeding on his own, with 16 points in the third quarter.
With little help from his teammates in attack (only Irving also surpassed 10 points), Durant could not avoid a defeat that wiped out the wide advantage with which they reached Milwaukee.
The Nets, an ambitious project built around Durant, Irving and Harden, will try to rebuild themselves before their public this Tuesday, in the fifth game of the series. (AFP)