James Harden missed the last two games for the Brooklyn Nets with a hamstring injury and strained hand. Without Harden in the lineup against the Golden State Warriors, the Nets extended their losing streak to four games in a row.
Harden averages 23 points, 10.1 assists, and 8.1 rebounds per game this season with the Nets.
The Nets do not have Kevin Durant either for at least another four weeks. He’s been out since Mid-January with a sprained knee. Durant recently was named one of the captains of the 2022 NBA All-Star Game after he earned the most votes in the Eastern Conference. However, Durant indicated he will sit out the All-Star Game and hopes he can return to action after the break.
During their four-game skid, the Nets (29-20) slipped to #6 in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. Their seed sounds a lot worse than it really is because only 2.5 games separate the top six teams in the top-heavy east. The Miami Heat took advantage of the Nets’ recent slide to snag the #1 seed, but by no means do they have a lock on first place with so many contenders within striking distance like the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavs, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Nets.
Despite the recent slide, the Nets are the consensus favorite to win the 2022 NBA championship. You can back them at +250 odds, according to a recent update by the Circa Casino and Sportsbook in Las Vegas.
Harden: Hand Flare Up
The Nets were initially concerned with Harden’s hamstring when he experienced tightness last week. They sat him out against the Denver Nuggets last Wednesday as a precautionary reason.
However, Harden underwent an MRI on Friday when he notified the training staff about his hand. He did not know when he initially injured it, but it had been bothering him for a couple of days. An MRI revealed a strain, so the Nets kept him out of the lineup against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.
“There’s stuff on the MRI, so he’s feeling something, feeling the strain,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “It’s been bothering him, but woke up with a marked difference in the hand.”
Luckily, the Nets were in the middle of a road trip, which meant Kyrie Irving could play games. The unvaccinated Irving has to skip home games due to New York City’s health mandate prohibiting vaccination people inside gyms, however he’s cleared to play in away games.
Irving was the only member of Brooklyn’s Big 3 that suited up against the Splash Brothers and the Warriors in a game that was initially billed as a potential preview of the 2022 NBA Finals. Irving led the Nets with 32 points in a four-point loss.
Klay Thompson drilled a big 3-pointer late in the game to lift the Warriors to a 110-106 victory. It marked his biggest shot since he returned to the Warriors after a 2.5-year layoff. Andrew Wiggins, who recently earned his first trip to the All-Star Game as a starter, led the Warriors with 24 points. Steph Curry scored 19 points, but his shooting slump continued with a 3-for-10 clip from downtown.
On Deck: Suns, Kings, Jazz, Nuggets
The Nets are in the middle of a five-game road trip against some of the elite teams in the Western Conference, which is why this losing streak is a slight cause for concern.
The Nets play the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. The Suns (39-9) have the best record in the NBA and hold the #1 seed in the Western Conference. They’re riding high on a nine-game winning streak and trying to become the first team in the NBA to reach 40 wins.
Nash and the Nets hope Harden will play on Tuesday if his hand injury clears up. If not, it will be up to Irving to battle a red-hot Devin Booker and Chris Paul.
The Nets will need all hands-on-deck against the sizzling Suns. It’s a tough spot, especially on the road with a team amidst a four-game losing streak battling a premier squad that won nine games in a row and has only lost one game in January.