The Nets misplaced James Harden lower than a minute into the Japanese Convention semifinals. However they by no means got here near shedding Sport 1.
Using their vaunted offense and a few stunning perimeter protection, the Nets put collectively a powerful 115-107 victory Saturday over the Bucks earlier than a raucous sellout crowd of 15,750 at Barclays Heart.
With Harden limping off simply 43 seconds into the sport with an injured proper hamstring, the remainder of the Nets’ Massive 3 got here up big once they had been wanted. Kevin Durant had 29 factors and 10 rebounds, whereas Kyrie Irving performed a marathon 44 minutes and turned in a stellar effort with 25 factors, eight assists and 5 rebounds.
Mike James — who hadn’t performed greater than a minute since Sport 2 of the first-round win over Boston — was summoned from the bench resulting from Harden’s harm and completed with 12 factors and 7 rebounds in 30:14.
Heart Blake Griffin had his second double-double of the season (18 factors, 14 boards) and a stable effort to assist preserve Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (game-high 34 factors) from utterly wrecking the sport, they means he did the back-to-back Nets losses in Milwaukee on Might 2 and Might 4.
After the Nets — considerably shaken by the lack of Harden — had fallen behind 20-9 with 6:58 left within the first quarter on an Antetokounmpo hook shot, they rapidly steadied the itemizing ship.
“I believe it’s the identical factor that we’ve preached all 12 months; aggressive spirit and connectivity. The one factor that we haven’t confronted but — little bit — however we didn’t face a ton of within the Boston sequence was actually getting punched within the mouth,” coach Steve Nash had warned beforehand.
“When issues are actually going poorly or we’re having a troublesome patch, how can we reply? Simply preaching that aggressive spirit and that connectivity to have the ability to stick collectively and climate some storms. That’s the hallmark of nice groups and that’s one thing that I believe we need to cling our hat on as we progress right here.”
Harden’s harm was a sucker punch, however the Nets hit again.
Griffin supplied physicality and hustle, twice diving on the ground to save lots of unfastened balls. The primary one he wrestled from Bryn Forbes and Bobby Portis because the sellout crowd gave him an enormous ovation. He acquired extra cheers when he fouled out with 1:26 remaining, the gang recognizing what he had introduced.
When the Nets acquired inside 42-39 with 9:11 within the second quarter, their protection discovered its footing and sparked a fast two-minute burst and eight unanswered factors. With their offense, the Nets don’t must be stellar defensively, simply ok. And Saturday, they had been ok.
The Nets held Milwaukee to 6-for-30 taking pictures from 3-point vary, and restricted Khris Middleton to 6-for-23 total.
When James hit a step-back 3-pointer with 7:40 left within the first half, it gave the Nets a 47-42 lead they by no means surrendered.
Irving put the Nets forward 59-48 with a working layup, and even after dealing with the inevitable Bucks run led by Antetokounmpo, they withstood it. The Nets took a 63-61 edge into the locker room, regrouped and padded their lead within the second half.
The Nets had been clinging to an 86-80 lead with simply over two minutes left within the third quarter, when Durant sparked a 12-2 run. His step-back 3-pointer padded it to 98-82 with 5.1 seconds left within the interval.
They cruised to victory from there. Sport 2 can be Monday at Barclays Heart.
“Effectively they’re an elite group on either side of the ball. So we have now to play properly, play at a excessive degree,” Nash stated beforehand. “We now have to have that aggressive spirit, that connectivity, nevertheless it’s the small print, the small print in our sport plan, having the ability to stick with our sport plan, having the ability to play collectively offensively and put them beneath stress in a collective means the place we’re sharing the ball, making fast selections, making it very arduous to defend.
“So there are such a lot of issues that you just attempt to care for with the intention to play the sport at a excessive degree and to have an efficient efficiency, however I believe it begins along with your strategy and the connectivity and that aggressive spirit.”