The injuries just keep rolling in for the Brooklyn Nets. With 5:52 remaining in the second quarter of Game 4 against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday afternoon, All-Star guard Kyrie Irving was writhing in pain on the ground and grabbing at his right ankle. He was able to get up and walk to the locker room under his own power, but would miss the remainder of the game. The good news is that head coach Steve Nash said Irving's initial X-rays came back negative. The star guard will undergo further testing and treatment in the coming days. Irving left Fiserv Forum using crutches and with his right ankle in a walking boot, according to ESPN's Rachel Nichols.
The injury occurred when Irving was landing after putting up a shot attempt at the basket. On his way down, Giannis Antetokounmpo came up behind him preparing to grab a rebound, but his foot was underneath Irving's landing space and caused him to come down directly on top of it. You can see the play below:
Prior to the injury, Irving had 11 points and five rebounds while the Nets and Bucks were locked in a tightly contested game. After Irving exited the game, the Bucks were able to pull away and they ultimately came away with a 107-96 win to tie the series up at 2-2. Irving's status for the remainder of the series is an unknown at this time, but Nash is trying his best to be optimistic.
"I have no idea what's going to happen with [Kyrie] in the coming days," Nash said after the game. "We'll cross our fingers and hope that it's better than -- I don't know, better than what? -- better than missing the next game."
Nash also made it clear that the injury to Irving won't impact James Harden's return timeline. Harden has been sidelined since the opening minutes of the series with a hamstring injury.
"James is an independent case. I don't want James to be rushed back," Nash said. "If he's able to play next game or the game after, that's fantastic. If he's not, I don't want to rush him back and jeopardize doing something worse or making this a long-term injury. So we'll see. We'll have to take all of these things into account, and evaluate them and try to make a smart decision."
Irving's injury is obviously a big blow for Brooklyn, especially with Harden already sidelined, and it was certainly a big factor in the fact that the Bucks were able to walk away with a win in Game 4. Moving forward, the Nets just have to hope that Irving's injury isn't too serious, and that he's able to return to game action in short order. Game 5 between the Nets and Bucks is scheduled for Tuesday night.
Bucks vs. Nets: Milwaukee cannot afford to waste opportunity created by injuries to James Harden, Kyrie Irving
The Bucks have tied the series at 2-2, and the Nets are down two stars
MILWAUKEE -- Late in the fourth quarter on Sunday afternoon, Giannis Antetokounmpo turned the ball over. His frustration evident, he took off down the court, sprinting so fast that when he launched himself in the air to try and disrupt Alize Johnson, he had to grab onto the rim to make sure he landed safely. A few seconds later, after he'd regained his balance, he obliterated a Reggie Perry hook shot to start a fastbreak that he finished with an alley-oop slam.
That flurry from the two-time MVP was the exclamation point on a 107-96 Game 4 win for the Milwaukee Bucks as they evened their second-round series with the Brooklyn Nets at 2-2. Leading the way as per usual, Giannis finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds for his third game in this series with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds.
On either side of their hero's thrilling sequence in the final minutes, the jubilant crowd inside Fiserv Forum broke into their favorite chant: "Bucks in six!" This time last week, following the Bucks' embarrassing loss in Game 2, that would have been unthinkable. Now, it's a real possibility, especially with James Harden and Kyrie Irving possibly unavailable moving forward.
In the middle of the second quarter of Game 4, Irving went up for a layup and severely twisted his ankle upon landing. He went straight to the locker room once he made it to his feet, and didn't return to the game. After he left, the Nets were outscored 63-56, and it was only even that close because they went on a run in garbage time to make the final score respectable.
Irving's X-rays came back negative, but he still has to undergo further evaluations and reportedly left the arena on crutches and in a walking boot. At this point there's no timetable on his recovery, and Nets head coach Steve Nash said that all the team can do is hope.
Nash added that he doesn't want Irving's injury to put any pressure on Harden to return before he's ready. Harden limped off with a hamstring injury in the first minute of Game 1, and hasn't played since. While he's improved to the point of doing on-court work there's still a "gap to make up" before he's able to go full speed in a playoff game.
"I don't want James to be rushed back," Nash said. "If he's able to play next game or the game after, that's fantastic. If he's not, we don't want to rush him back and jeopardize doing something worse or making this a long-term injury."
All of a sudden, the Bucks have a fantastic opportunity. Yes, the Nets still have Durant and home-court advantage, but the premise of their superteam was built on having their stars available. With one out they're still pretty great, and with two out they'll be able to manage, but they're no longer world beaters.
"It doesn't matter who's out there. We want to make sure that we continue to play our type of game," Pat Connaughton said. "For us, it's about continuing to focus on our brand of basketball. The toughness on the defensive end, the things that we instill in ourselves and in each other on that end. And then the ball movement, player movement that we have on the offensive end. I think that is the most important thing as we continue to move forward. Whoever is out in front of us, whoever the other team puts out in front of us, I don't think we need to put much weight into."
Barring some sort of miraculous recovery from Harden or Irving, the Bucks should be favorites at this point to return to the Eastern Conference finals for the second time in three seasons. After a few disappointing playoff runs, things are breaking their way this time around. They can't let this fortuitous turn of events go to waste.
Clippers vs. Jazz: Paul George continues to shed unfair 'Pandemic P' label with brilliant Game 3 performance
Every time the Jazz made a run on Saturday, George made a play to get the Clippers back on track
Pandemic P. Way-off P. Layoff P. We've all guilty of giving a hearty chortle at the disparaging nicknames that inevitably pop up on NBA Twitter any time Paul George is suffering through a rough stretch during a playoff game.
The sullied reputation is largely undeserved for a guy averaging more than 20 points per game over the course of his postseason career, but a rough performance in Game 7 of the Clippers' epic collapse against the Denver Nuggets last year in the bubble -- including a shot off the side of the backboard heard 'round the world -- unfairly labeled George a choke artist.
So there's got to be an extra morsel of satisfaction for George when he puts on a show like he did in the Los Angeles Clippers' 132-106 Game 3 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday, which saved them from an 0-3 series hole and the incessant prattle that would have ensued. George was simply phenomenal, scoring 31 points on 6-for-10 3-point shooting while dishing out five assists and frequently looking like the best player on a court he shared with Kawhi Leonard and Donovan Mitchell.
George clearly came out with a scorer's mentality, taking 24 shots -- the most he's ever attempted in a playoff game as a Clipper.
"I think I just shot my shots, you know, to get the shots I'm most comfortable with, and stuck with it," George said after the win. "It's just putting pressure, whether I'm shooting the ball, scoring or making plays. It's just all about putting the pressure on the defense and just staying with an attack mentality all game."
The best part of George's performance, and the aspect that further contradicts his fallacious reputation for shrinking in big moments, is that George's biggest plays in Game 3 came directly in response to adversity. Every time it looked like the Jazz were starting to gain momentum and the ghosts of Clippers playoff collapses past began creeping into the collective Staples Center consciousness, George applied a tourniquet to the bleeding before it became a hemorrhage.
When the Jazz cut the Clipper lead to two points early in the second quarter, George came right back with a layup and a 3-pointer to push the lead back to seven. Later in the quarter, he hit back-to-back dagger 3s, the second of which came from 32 feet away, to extend the lead to 16 and force a Utah timeout.
"I thought P.G. set the tone early. After that 8-0 run [by the Jazz to start the game], I thought he was decisive about what he wanted to do, you know, making plays for us, attacking or shooting the 3-point shot," Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said after Game 3. "It was a great game for him tonight and we have to keep building off that."
Late in the third quarter, the Jazz had chiseled a 16-point halftime deficit down to eight, when George came calling again. On a possession that was going absolutely nowhere, he raised up and swished a corner 3-pointer with Bojan Bogdanovic draped all over him. If he misses it, Utah has the chance to make it a two-possession game. Instead, the Clippers went up 11 and gave themselves some much-needed breathing room.
"When [George] gets going, I find some extra motivation. I think the whole team, we start riding his wave, we start riding his energy," Clippers guard Reggie Jackson said after Game 3. "Once he got the flow going a little bit and got some shots going, his energy is electric and contagious. Once he gets going, we all feed off it and it makes the game easier for us."
In the fourth quarter, when Utah made its final push and cut the lead to 10 with just under nine minutes left, George made an incredible one-on-one move to get past
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