This could very well be the last picture fans of Kyrie Irving have on the pitch this season. With James Harden struggling with a further deterioration in his hamstring after 43 seconds in the Eastern Conference semifinals, which left him out of the game for three games, the Nets were two top players, so Kevin Durant carried a heavy burden on his shoulders. And he did this in game 5, playing every 48 minutes. Meanwhile, Harden returned and played 46 minutes, but could only contribute 5 points.
The Nets were then hit hard in the elimination game as they faced Game 7 at home. You may not be in this situation, but for the loss of Harden and Irving. The Bucks, only missing Donte DiVincenzo, have health on their side as they return to Brooklyn for the crucial game tonight.
In this second round, the Denver Nuggets were swept out of the Western Conference semifinals even without the services of Jamal Murray. Even the return of Will Barton III failed to push the series into a fifth game.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat were eliminated as their key players (Jaylan Brown, Anthony Davis and Victor Oladipo) were unavailable when they were most needed. Some experts point to the Dallas elimination that there is only one real star, but on the flip side, Luka Doncic struggled with gnawing shoulder pain throughout the series.
The question arises – is the rigor of the league’s schedule mixed with ongoing coronavirus postponements to catch up with players in the postseason? In the Milwaukee series, Kevin Durant plays over 40 minutes per game if the Nets don’t blow the bucks out of the water.
If James Harden and Kyrie Irving don’t return in time to save their season, the conversation will revolve around “what could have been” no matter who ends up taking the Larry O’Brien.
But they are not the only team that will face a “what if”.
The Philadelphia 76ers faced elimination last night. You might not be in this position if Joel Embiid was at 100%, but his knee injury put their title hopes in jeopardy. In contrast, Trae Young also fights shoulder pain. As the team’s top scorer and ball handler, his pain threshold greatly affects the Hawks’ ability to move on. It looks like the 76ers were able to hold out and Game 7 will take place tomorrow.
Kawhi Leonard went out in Game 4 and left the Clippers season to look as good as worn out. Fortunately for them, Paul George stepped up with the help of Marcus Morris, Sr. and Reggie Jackson to keep their playoff hopes alive. Last night, the Los Angeles Clippers consolidated their advance when the Los Angeles Clippers made their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals without a Kawhi suit but on the backs of PG-13 and Terance Mann.
Donovan Mitchell hadn’t looked like himself since returning from an injury. He is a step slower, has driven less to the hole and has opted for the long haul. His hit-or-miss ratio opened the door to the Clippers’ success. And when he went down at the last minute, you could tell he knew it was over.
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