By Lenn Robbins
There is no point in an NBA basketball game when it’s good to see the sole of a player’s shoe unless he’s on the bench changing into slides.
With 5:52 left in the second quarter of Game 4 of their series against the Bucks, Nets star Kyrie Irving landed on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot and his right ankle rolled, showing the sole of his shoe and driving a dagger in the soul of Brooklyn Nets.
One of the players that had the best view of this sickening sight was fellow Brooklyn star James Harden, who has not played since the first minute of Game 2. Harden is out with a hamstring injury and there is no timetable for his return.
Irving, who has a history of injuries, did not return to the game and we will learn soon enough if he can return, period. Nets coach Steve Nash told reporters that X-rays were negative but Irving would undergo additional testing.
“I thought he got hit in the groin first,” said Antetokounmpo.
No, that would be the Nets fan base.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen with Ky in the coming days,” Nash said. “We’ll cross our fingers and that it’s better than missing the next game.”
The Nets heralded Big Three of Kevin Durant, Harden and Irving is down to a Big Frustrated One. The Bucks Big Three – Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holliday combined for 67 points, 19, rebounds and 20 assists in a 107-96 win that evened this series at 2-2.
Add to the Bucks Big Three the defensive glue trap known as P.J. Tucker
The 6-foot-10 Durant has been guarded by the 6-foot-5 Tucker, who has mastered the art of holding, hacking, hustling along with cussing, complaining and crap talking. Tucker and Durant got face-to-face in Game 3. By Game 4 Tucker was a barnacle on Brooklyn’s last standing superstar.
“[Tucker’s] playing extremely physical and made it difficult,” said Nash. “That’s his role on their team. I thought it was borderline non-basketball physical at times. But that’s the playoffs.”
It sure is. Even if the Nets were healthy, the Bucks have turned the series into a rock fight. The league’s two highest-scoring teams (Bucks 120.1 points per game; Nets 118.6) have played the last two games with scores of 86-83 and 107-96.
Durant had 28 of Brooklyn’s 96 points but he needed 25 shots, making just nine. He added 13 rebounds and is giving every ounce of effort, but the two-thirds of the Super Team he brought to Brooklyn are felled by injury, the one haunting fear that has taken a parking space in every Nets’ fans heads.
The Nets have gone from winning Game 2, 125-86, and taking a 36-25 lead in the second quarter to facing the worst fate – not even making it to the conference finals. The Bucks, who could have headed for the nether regions of Wisconsin after falling behind 0-2, now face a Nets team that’s more uncertain than a $5 psychic.
NOTES: Although there was no mention of injury, Blake Griffin left the game with 2:02 left in the third and didn’t return. Griffin (five points, seven rebounds, three blocks) is the only Nets player who has been able to match up with Giannis.