The Brooklyn Nets were able to beat the visiting Milwaukee Bucks 115-107 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Saturday despite losing superstar James Harden just 43 seconds in due to a right hamstring injury. That's the same hamstring that saw the former MVP and scoring champion miss over a month due to injury before returning for the final week of the regular season. The Nets already have ruled him and veteran Jeff Green out for Monday's Game 2. Brooklyn is -1.5 at William Hill Sportsbook – it was -3.5 for Game 1, but that's not to say Harden is only worth 2.0 points.
ESPN's Jordan Schultz tweeted that the Nets "won't risk long-term health issues" with Harden, "after the Lakers drew criticism" for playing a hobbled Anthony Davis in Game 6 vs. the Suns. Davis hobbled off injured early and L.A. was eliminated. It's not clear how long Harden will sit.
Harden showed no signs of hamstring trouble in the last round against Boston, averaging 27.8 points, 10.6 assists and 7.2 rebounds in the five-game series win against the Celtics. With him going down so early in Game 2, fellow guard Kyrie Irving was forced to play 45 minutes, a season high for him in a non-overtime game. He finished with 25 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Kevin Durant played 40 minutes and had 29 points and 10 rebounds.
Just for a point of comparison, no Bucks player saw more than the 36 minutes Khris Middleton got. He wasn't great in the opener with just 13 points on 6-for-23 shooting and a minus-6 rating. Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with a game-high 34 points on 16-for-24 shooting in 35 minutes. He is given an Over/Under total of 33.5 points for Game 2.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer inserted PJ Tucker into the starting lineup over Pat Connaughton simply for defensive reasons as Tucker largely checked Durant. Connaughton was actually the only Milwaukee player to finish with a positive plus/minus rating at plus-1 in 20 minutes. He had three points and four rebounds.
The Nets' Green hasn't played since Game 2 vs. the Celtics due to a plantar fascia strain in his left foot and it's not clear when he will get back, either. Brooklyn does think it will happen at some point in this series. Green started in all three of the Nets' regular-season games against the Bucks and played at least 34 minutes in each while guarding Antetokounmpo.
Milwaukee appears to have no injury concerns other than Donte DiVincenzo, but we knew he was lost for the season in the first round vs. Miami. Bryn Forbes has taken a big chunk of his minutes but was only 2-for-8 for five points in 22 minutes of Game 1 off the bench.
On the updated series line, Brooklyn is -210 and Milwaukee +175. The favored exact result is Nets in five at +350, yet the favored number of games at +190 is seven.
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