NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: Depleted Nets left to deal with Irving injury as Bucks level series

By Sports Desk June 13, 2021

Kyrie Irving will undergo further tests on the ankle injury he suffered in the Brooklyn Nets' defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday – a result that leaves the NBA playoff series all tied up at 2-2.

Irving twisted his right ankle after coming down on Giannis Antetokounmpo's foot after scoring from close range in the second quarter of Game 4 in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

The seven-time All-Star received treatment on the court before walking to the locker room. The Nets later ruled him out for the remainder of the contest, though head coach Steve Nash confirmed after the game that X-rays on the issue came back negative.

"I have no idea what is going to happen with Ky in the coming days," Nash said.

"We will cross our fingers and hope that it is better than I don't know – better than what – better than missing the next game?"

Already without James Harden, Brooklyn slipped to a 107-96 defeat on the road. They host Game 3 on Tuesday, having recorded both their wins at home at the start of the best-of-seven series.

Irving had 11 points, five rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes of action.

Kevin Durant led the way for the Nets with 28 points but was stifled by the Bucks' physical defensive play which, at times, Nash felt went a step too far.

"[Tucker's] playing extremely physical. And made it difficult. That's his role on their team," Nash said. "I thought it was borderline non-basketball physical at times. But that's the playoffs."

Harden has not featured since suffering a hamstring injury in the early stages of Game 1. It remains unclear when the former MVP will return, though there are positive signs in his recovery.

"I asked him and he says he's feeling better, doing better," Nash said. "I asked the staff, they say, 'Yeah, it's getting better'. 

"I think he's in that arena where he's got a little gap to make up. But he's getting closer, so it's been positive."

Antetokounmpo's 34-point haul helped Milwaukee make it two wins from two at home. He was helped out by 19 points from Khris Middleton, while P.J. Tucker added 13 to go along with his defensive work when tasked with slowing down Durant.

"We're very happy, but we've got to keep getting better, keep playing together and hopefully we can go into Brooklyn and take one," Antetokounmpo said.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer added: "At this stage, it's whatever it takes to win the game.

"It certainly helps to get more guys contributing, making shots. P.J. Tucker was phenomenal on both ends of the court."

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    Erik Spoelstra has no doubt the Miami Heat can inflict the sort of brutal defeat that the Boston Celtics doled out in Game 4 as the Eastern Conference Finals heads towards its climax.

    A 102-82 loss in Boston on Monday night came on the back of Miami scoring a trifling 11 points in the first quarter, with Jimmy Butler scoring just six points all night and no Heat starter reaching double figures.

    The visitors shot just 33.3 per cent from the field (30 of 90), with Boston's win squaring the series at 2-2 and setting up Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday evening as a pivotal occasion.

    Coach Spoelstra said: "More than anything, our offense really hurt us at the beginning. They weren't getting the sort of purposeful execution that you need to on the road. [Boston] were able to get some relief points from that and get to the free-throw line. They did a better job of getting into us and rotating guys into the paint."

    It was 57-33 by the halfway mark, and Spoelstra admitted the Heat simply failed to ignite. Yet he says Miami can swiftly set the game aside and dominate the next time the teams meet on court, saying it would not surprise him if the tables are turned.

    "We've got guys that love these kinds of moments, the playoffs. You've just got to stay together," Spoelstra said.

    "This is part of the playoffs. There are these extreme highs and lows, a lot of emotion. You just have to stay the course, stay together. What you're looking at is a great series. It's 2-2. You have to embrace that. Hopefully this competition beings out the absolute best in all of us.

    "They got the best of us tonight. We'll take this hit and then get to Miami and get ready for Game 5. Whatever they have done to us, we can do to them."

    Jayson Tatum led Boston with 31 points. The Celtics led by 32 points at one stage before Miami began to claw back the deficit late on.

    "We're not making any excuses. They outplayed us tonight, for sure," said Spoelstra.

  • Jayson Tatum shines for Celtics after saying he let team-mates down in Game 3 Jayson Tatum shines for Celtics after saying he let team-mates down in Game 3

    Jayson Tatum never doubted himself after a poor Game 3 performance, returning to a starring role as the Boston Celtics dominated the Miami Heat 102-82 in Game 4.

    The Celtics had their backs to the wall in the latest tussle of the Eastern Conference Finals, with the threat of heading back to Miami for Game 5 trailing 3-1, but they made sure it was not a nervous night for the Boston faithful.

    Derrick White – returning to the starting line-up after the birth of his son – started in place of the injured Marcus Smart and scored the first seven points, kick-starting a 26-4 run to open the game.

    The Celtics defense proved to be immense, holding the visitors to just 42 points with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter.

    Eleven first-quarter points also set a new record for the Heat's worst offensive first quarter in any playoff game in their history.

    After only scoring 10 points in Game 3, Tatum responded in fine fashion, racking up a team-high 31 points on eight-of-16 shooting, hitting 14-of-16 free throws, while adding eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

    Speaking later, Tatum highlighted the confidence he has in his ability, despite how dark things can get immediately following a painful loss.

    "Right after it's tough," he said. "You're frustrated with how you played, knowing how important this time of year is, and feeling like you let your team-mates down.

    "But I think I do a really good job of sleeping it off – regardless of if I have 10 points or 46 points – the next day is the next day, and whatever happened, happened.

    "Obviously I was ready to get back to playing, but I didn't doubt myself – I know how to play basketball.

    "Regardless of how many points I score, [it's about] just trying to come out and help us get a win. That's most important."

    With the series now tied at 2-2, Tatum called it "a new series", but he stressed his side need to bring the same intensity after a win, as opposed to just after crushing losses.

    "It's 2-2 – it's kind of like a new series, a best-of-three," Tatum said.

    "Human nature plays a part in [the swings in the series]. When you win a game, you can relax a little bit, but obviously when we lose a game, we feel like the next game is do-or-die, and then we come out and play how we did.

    "We need to have that mindset going into Game 5 – it is a must-win game – and tonight was essentially something like that. Everybody knew it, we could all feel it, and I think it showed with the way we came out."

    When asked if he enjoyed sitting out the fourth quarter after clocking 117 minutes across the first three games of the series, Tatum said: "It was extremely nice – especially because we were winning."

    Celtics coach Ime Udoka made sure to highlight the efforts of White after he finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals.

    "He checks so many boxes for us, it's not only things that show up on the stat sheet," Udoka said.

    "He's the guy that moves the ball very well, defends extremely well, multiple positions… I couldn't be more happy with him being here, and what he brings to this team."

    Udoka touched on what it will take to come out on top in this series, echoing Tatum's sentiments about bringing the same intensity after a win.

    "Our mindset was right coming out, we came out with the right physicality and focus," he said. "We've just got to muster that same energy when we're coming off a win, as well as a loss.

    "It wasn't our best offensive night, but defensively, obviously we were elite tonight, for the most part.

    "We've got room to grow still, that's the thing with us, and we can always rely on our defense. We've won several games doing that this year when our shots aren't falling.

    "To hold them in the 30s for basically three quarters, it's high-level defense.

    "We can do that even if our shots are not falling, it's mainly about taking care of the ball, not letting them get anything easy, and kind of wearing on them mentally."

    After Game 5 in Miami, Game 6 will head back to Boston, with a potential Game 7 to be played in Miami, if required.

  • Jayson Tatum and Derrick White ignite emphatic Game 4 win against the Miami Heat Jayson Tatum and Derrick White ignite emphatic Game 4 win against the Miami Heat

    The Boston Celtics smothered the Miami Heat all night on the way to a 102-82 victory in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

    With the win, the Celtics evened the series at 2-2, and are still yet to lose back-to-back games this postseason. 

    It all started on the defensive end for Boston, playing in front of their raucous home fans, as the Heat missed their first 14 field goal attempts.

    The Celtics led 29-11 at quarter time – after leading 26-4 at one stage – marking the fewest first-quarter points ever scored by a Heat team in the playoffs. They shot three-for-20 from the field.

    Victor Oladipo tried to ignite the Heat off the bench, scoring 18 of their first 28 points, but it was a historically bad showing from Miami's starting line-up, made even worse by the fact Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro was out injured.

    With three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Heat trailed 73-42, leading to their starters getting benched for the final frame. Their five starters combined to score 18 points and shoot seven-for-38 (18 per cent) from the field.

    For Boston, Jayson Tatum was terrific, scoring 24 of his 31 points in the first half, finishing up with shooting figures of eight-of-16 from the field and 14-of-16 from the free throw line.

    The big-man combination of Al Horford and Robert Williams III was also game-changing, as the duo combined for 22 rebounds and six blocks, while Derrick White also shined in his first game since becoming a father.

    White missed Game 3 for the birth of his child, and after scoring no more than nine points since Game 4 of the Celtics series against the Milwaukee Bucks, he had 10 points in the first quarter as he started in the place of the injured Marcus Smart.

    He went on to finish with 13 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and a blocked shot.

    Game 5 will head back to Miami with plenty on the line. Throughout NBA history, when a series has been tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 goes on to win the series 82 per cent of the time – although the Celtics bucked that trend last round.

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