Is the Nets title push now squarely in the hands of Kevin Durant? (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
- The Milwaukee Bucks tied up their series with the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday afternoon
- Kyrie Irving left the game with a sprained ankle and did not return; his status is in doubt for Game 5 on Tuesday
- Milwaukee have become favorites to win the series with injury uncertainty surrounding two of the Nets’ stars
This series looked pretty much over after Game 2. Completely outplayed in Brooklyn, Milwaukee returned to Fiserv Forum needing to win Game 3. They did just that, albeit narrowly, and then faced a near-must-win Game 4. The Bucks levelled the series on Sunday, and their chances of returning to the Conference Finals got an even bigger boost when Kyrie Irving landed horribly on his ankle.
The teams are back at Barclays Center for Tuesday’s Game 5. Milwaukee is favored for the game, and they are now favored to win the series.
Bucks vs Nets Series Odds
|Team||Odds to Win Series at FanDuel|
Odds as of June 14
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Irving turned his ankle in a collision with Giannis Antetokounmpo. It was one of those basketball injuries which you really don’t want to see a replay of. The All-Star guard was banging the court in pain, and reportedly asked to be given a minute before he moved. X-Rays of the ankle returned negative, which might give Nets backers some hope here, but Rachel Nichols reported Irving left the arena using a walking boot and crutches.
I’m told Kyrie was in a walking boot and using crutches after spraining his ankle during today’s Nets-Bucks Game 4. Steve Nash says that x-rays on the ankle were negative and that Kyrie will undergo further testing/evaluation tomorrow.
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 13, 2021
Further tests will take place on Monday. The walking boot and crutches might just be a precaution, but it isn’t looking good for Irving to play again in this series, let alone return for Tuesday’s pivotal Game 5.
Brooklyn has been eerily quiet about the status of James Harden, who left the series less than a minute into Game 1. Pushed on Harden’s status on Sunday, Steve Nash was firm in saying that they will remain cautious with the former MVP and not rush him back despite Irving’s injury.
Nash said, “I don’t want to rush [Harden] back and jeopardize doing something worse, or making this a long-term injury.”
Injuries in this playoffs:
— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 13, 2021
Harden has been doing some on-court work, and getting shots up, but Nash refused to give a more certain update on his return.
Improved Bucks Offense
Some of the improvement is simply making shots. Pat Connaughton, Bryn Forbes and P.J. Tucker all knocked down open threes in Game 4, while Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton have started hitting some shots after struggling horribly in the first two games.
Antetokounmpo continues to jack up ill-advised shots, but he was also dominant, scoring 36 points on 24 shots and getting 10 free throw attempts. Milwaukee moved the ball more on Sunday, recording 27 assists to Brooklyn’s 20. The Bucks scored the same number of points as they did in Game 1 but had six more assists.
The @Bucks have the least amount of passes per possession in their series vs @BrooklynNets ever since passing data is tracking in 2013-14.
The Bucks’ offense has basically turned into ISO offense. In 1st half of game 3 they had 0 (half-court) passes in approx 21/43 possessions pic.twitter.com/4XYNu0pShF
— Daniel Bratulić (@daniel_bratulic) June 13, 2021
The defense was solid throughout this series. Given the firepower the Nets possess, the Bucks were doing well to keep in touch. The questions were about the offense, which had slumped into the same iso-heavy stuff of previous postseason failings. There were signs in Game 4 that they had worked past some of those issues with much improved ball movement.
Maintaining this offensive play is key to the Bucks’ chances.
Milwaukee’s Series to Lose
This feels like an even series if the Nets have two healthy stars. With only one, the Bucks should win this in six games. Milwaukee has not just capitalized on poor shooting and injuries in their two wins; they have altered their offense and locked in defensively.
Kyrie Irving headed to the locker room after an apparent ankle injury. pic.twitter.com/MhTR8DacBh
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 13, 2021
Irving’s injury looked bad. He was in a lot of pain on the court. While hope can be taken from how he walked back to the locker room, it would be a huge shock if he featured in Game 5. The end of Sunday’s game showed how dominant the Bucks can be when it’s just Durant. Brooklyn’s offense was suddenly stagnant.
Milwaukee are a good price here. Brooklyn don’t have much of a chance unless Irving or Harden can return and play at 100%, and even that might not be enough with how the Bucks played in the last two games.
Sam Cox is a freelance writer and sports junkie, who has spent the past several years immersed in the online gaming industry. He has worked with 888sport, Oddschecker, and Colossus Bets to name a few. Based in the UK, Sam also runs Franchise Sports with his brother.