Brooklyn’s James Harden came away with a steal and didn’t have a Milwaukee defender between him and the basket. In normal times, Harden would’ve darted to the rim for a layup while trying to draw a foul.
But Harden pulled up, knowing his bad hamstring didn’t have enough power to get him to the rim before a Bucks defender caught up with him.
“James was better tonight as far as what he was able to do, but it’s tough,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “He’s really limited. He can’t do a lot of things he’s accustomed to doing. … Tough, tough position for James to be out there trying his best, trying to help this team and not being able to move the way he normally would.”
Harden isn’t 100%, Kyrie Irving missed his second consecutive game with a sprained ankle, every Nets starter played at least 30 minutes in Game 6 and now the Nets head back home for Game 7 with an exhausted, short-handed group.
Milwaukee defeated Brooklyn 104-89 in Game 6 on Thursday, tying the Eastern Conference semifinals series at 3-3.
Game 7 is Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT), and two major questions loom:
Do the Nets have enough left to get one more victory?
Can the Bucks become the first team to get a road win this series?
Harden said he felt a little better, and the expectation is that he is a little healthier by the start of Saturday’s game. But he won’t be 100% as he plays through the injury. After missing basically four games, Harden logged nearly 46 minutes in Game 5, and Durant played all 48 minutes. The minutes are piling up.
“We didn’t look like we had a ton of energy all night. I think we wanted it. We just couldn’t find it,” Nash said following Game 6. “Overall, I didn’t like the way we played offensively. We just looked a little slow, a little stagnant and got away from what we do best. But that’s sometimes how it rolls in the playoffs.”
The Bucks also outscored the Nets 26-4 in fast-break points.
“We had some problems getting back in transition,” Nash said.
The Nets looked a step slow, and maybe that’s just playing on the road against a desperate team that needed a win to continue its season.
Or it could be deeper than that. The Nets might be drained physically and mentally, trying to overcome injuries all season long.
The Nets needed a big comeback and a historic game from Durant to win Game 5 at home. Durant’s fantastic, but you can’t count on him going for 49 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists again. Jeff Green had 27 points in Game 5, and while he’s capable of that, it’s not realistic to think he will do it again.
It will require a much more all-around team effort for the Nets to advance to the conference finals.
Milwaukee didn’t have a great offensive game as a team in Game 6. But it found some things that worked, freeing up Khris Middleton for some open shots and getting Giannis Antetokounmpo to focus on what he does best – attacking the rim.
Antetokounmpo made 11 of his 12 shots in the paint, and he didn’t take one 3-point shot – the first time this series he didn’t attempt one from behind the line. That’s a great sign for Milwaukee.
But the Bucks also have to win on the road. They wilted in the second half of Game 1, were blown out in Game 2 and had no answer for Durant and sputtered down the stretch of Game 5 after building a 16-point lead in the third quarter.
So, it’s down to Game 7.
One team is spent.
The other hasn’t won on the road in the series.
Who finds a way?