The Brooklyn Nets are down to one-third of their Big 3 after Kyrie Irving left Game 4 with a serious ankle injury and never returned. Irving is out for Game 5 against the Bucks, while the Nets updated the status of James Harden from doubtful to hopeful with a sore hamstring. The Nets are now an underdog to win their series against the Bucks, who surged to the top of the NBA futures board as the new betting favorite to win the 2021 NBA Championship.

Milwaukee Bucks Brooklyn Nets Kyrie Irving injury Game 5 NBA Playoffs
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving grimaces in pain with an ankle injury during the second quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum. (Image: Getty)

If Harden doesn’t play on Tuesday night, Kevin Durant and the short-handed Nets will try to prevent Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks from winning a third consecutive game.

Game 5: #3 Milwaukee Bucks (2-2) at #2 Brooklyn Nets (2-2)
  • Tip-off: 5:30 pm PT
  • Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
  • Point Spread: MIL -4
  • Total: 217 o/u
  • Money Line: BKLYN +170 / MIL -190
  • Series Line: BKLYN +150 / MIL -186

The Bucks started the series 0-2 even though the Nets lost James Harden in the opening minute of Game 1. The Bucks squandered an opportunity to take advantage of a Harden-less Nets team. When Irving went down in Game 4, the Bucks didn’t waste that added edge; they posted a win to even the series at 2-2.

Game 5: Betting the Bucks and Nets

The Nets are a +4 home dog in Game 5 against the Bucks. The under hit in all four games this series, with the total sitting at 217 o/u for Game 5.

The Bucks became the betting favorite to win the series late on Monday evening when the Nets confirmed that Irving will miss Game 5 with a more serious injury than fans hoped. The Bucks improved to -186 odds to defeat the Nets and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. The short-handed Nets are a +150 underdog to win this series.

For the first time since mid-March, the Nets are no longer the favorite to win the 2021 NBA Championship. The Bucks are the new favorite at +325 odds, while the Nets slipped to +365 odds according to this morning’s update by DraftKings.

A panic grows in Brooklyn?

When Harden limped off the court in Game 1, the Nets didn’t flinch. They played the majority of the regular season without their Big 3 on the floor. When the Nets jumped out to a 2-0 lead, it looked like they could let Harden rest for the remainder of the series to get ready for the East finals.

The Bucks won Game 3 in Milwaukee to finally get on the board. The Nets played like crap, but they looked much better in Game 4. Then disaster struck in the second quarter when Irving fell to the floor with an injury. He sprained his ankle and didn’t return in the second half. The Bucks went on a game-changing 22-4 run and, for the first time all series, the Nets looked panicked.

“Now, it’s a three-game series,” said head coach Steve Nash. “We’ve got to get home, rest up and get our minds and bodies ready. Stay positive.”

The Nets could win with two of their Big 3, but we’ll see how they respond with just Durant and a slew of role players.

Joe Harris emerged as a valuable fourth scoring option in the first round, but the Nets need him to take on a bigger role. The Nets added Blake Griffin to bolster their bench, but right now, they need him to help Durant out in the scoring department. Harris and Griffin combined for 16 points on 3-for-10 combined from 3-point range.

In the first two wins, the Nets averaged 120 points and their defense held the Bucks to 96.5 points. In the last two losses, the Nets averaged only 89.5 ppg.

Bucks catch a break

What a difference a weekend makes in the NBA Playoffs. With the Nets up 2-0 without Harden, everyone was ready to crown them as the next NBA champion. But then they lost Game 3 and lost Irving and momentum in Game 4. The betting public jumped on the Bucks bandwagon and the Nets are no longer a lock for the title.

The Bucks need to win just two more games to knock out the Nets, but two of those matches, including Game 7, will take place in Brooklyn if the series gets that far. If the Bucks can steal a Game 5 win in Brooklyn, they’ll have a chance to close out the series on their home court in Milwaukee in Game 6. That’s why both teams have a must-win at all costs vibe for Game 5.

“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,” said Antetokounmpo.

Greek Freak dominated the Nets with 34 points and 12 rebounds in the Game 4 victory. PJ Tucker scored 13 points and added seven rebounds, but it was his hard-nosed defense on Durant that lifted the Bucks.

NYC playground rules: No blood, no foul

In their two wins in Milwaukee, the Bucks played more physically on defense. But that’s how you beat Durant — by bullying him. Tucker was up for the challenge. He had a previous history battling in the postseason when he played with Houston and Durant played with the Golden State Warriors.

The zebras swallowed their whistles in Game 4, which irked Durant and Nash, who thought a superstar like Durant should be getting calls instead of non-calls.

“It was borderline-non-basketball physical at times, but that’s the playoffs,” said Nash. “You have to adapt and adjust. Something definitely in a sense changed from the way the game was played in Brooklyn and here in Milwaukee.”

If Durant gets some home-cooking from the refs in Game 5, then the Bucks won’t be able to get away with their brutish tactics. However, if officials look the other way, the Nets could be staring down the barrel of a 3-2 deficit.

Check out more of OG’s coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.