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MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – JUNE 13: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks dunks against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half of Game Four of the Eastern Conference second round playoff series at the Fiserv Forum on June 13, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo : Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
The Milwaukee Bucks knotted their series with the Brooklyn Nets at two games apiece after an impressive 107-96 victory in Game 4 on Sunday. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks, who remained unbeaten at the Fiserv Forum this postseason.
The Brooklyn Nets are in a precarious situation heading into Game 5 of this gripping best-of-seven series. With the series all tied at 2-2, the Nets might play that pivotal fifth game without Kyrie Irving after injuring his right ankle in the second quarter of their Game 4 loss to the Bucks.
Injuries plague Nets heading into Game 5
Irving appeared to be in considerable pain after landing on Antetokounmpo’s foot following a layup, staying on the floor for several minutes. He was ruled out for the rest of the game just before the beginning of the second half, with sources telling ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that Irving left the building using crutches and with his ankle strapped in a walking boot.
The Nets looked out of sorts with Irving sidelined as they failed to get their offense going in Game 4. After opening the game 6-for-14 from beyond the arc, the Nets shot just 4-for-19 from 3-point range after Irving’s injury. They also committed ten turnovers over the final 30 minutes of play, with their offense in total disarray.
Before Irving’s injury, the Nets were already short-handed, with star guard James Harden injuring his hamstring in the series opener. With Irving’s status for Game 5 up in the air, the focus now is on Harden’s recovery and determine if he can play a part in the Nets’ most important games of the season.
The good news for Brooklyn is that Harden is getting close to returning with head coach Steve Nash saying that he’s on the court doing some shooting and that he’s just got a little gap to make up.
With Harden’s status still uncertain, the onus is on Kevin Durant to steady the ship for the misfiring Nets. Durant, the last superstar standing for Brooklyn, scored 28 points in Sunday’s defeat but shot just 9-of-25 from the field. He struggled to find his stroke in Milwaukee, shooting a combined 20-for-53 from the floor in their two losses in Games 3 and 4, with Bucks defender P.J. Tucker proving to be a worthy adversary.
He can’t do it all alone, though, and the pressure is on the other Brooklyn players to contribute on the offensive end. Apart from Durant and the injured Irving, who finished with 11 points, no other player scored in double-figures for the Nets in Game 4. That simply won’t fly against a Milwaukee side that’s starting to get its perimeter game going.
Related Article: 2021 NBA Playoffs: Bucks Survive Meltdown, Rally Past Nets in Game 3 to Stay Alive in Their Best-of-Seven Series
Bucks slowly heating up
The Bucks shot particularly well from beyond the arc in Game 4, burying 16 of their 47 three-point attempts. That 34 percent shooting performance from deep is a vast improvement from their 24.7 percent shooting clip through the first three games of the series (22-of-89).
The Bucks also featured a balanced attack in Game 4, with five of their players scoring in double figures. Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday led the way for Milwaukee, scoring 34, 19, and 14 points, respectively. P.J. Tucker, who’s more known for his defensive prowess, chipped in 13 points of his own while Bryn Forbes contributed 10 points.
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