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Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving lead Nets past Bucks in Game 1 after James Harden is hurt

The Nets' James Harden, right, walks off the court past Kevin Durant (7) early in the first quarter June 5, 2021.
The Nets’ James Harden, right, walks off the court past Kevin Durant (7) in the first quarter. Harden reinjured his hamstring and didn’t return, but Brooklyn won 115-107.
(Associated Press)

Kevin Durant knew something was wrong when the Brooklyn Nets were trying to run a play and James Harden wasn’t in the right spot.

Moments later, Harden wasn’t even in the game, forced to leave with a right hamstring injury less than a minute into the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“That was tough,” Nets coach Steve Nash said.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving made sure it wasn’t a knockout blow.

Durant scored 29 points, Irving had 25, and the two superstars carried Brooklyn to a 115-107 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night in Game 1 of the second-round playoff series.

Lakers assistant Jason Kidd has surfaced as a leading candidate for coaching vacancies, and Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard wants him in Portland.

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Harden’s injury is the same one that forced him to miss two losses to the Bucks in May.

But the Nets beat Milwaukee when it mattered most without him, getting 19 points from Joe Harris and 18 points and 14 rebounds from Blake Griffin.

“We try not to be too emotional out there, but losing one of your leaders like that on the first play of the game, we had to regroup for a couple of minutes and figure out what was next, but I think the coaches, the coaching staff did a great job of moving forward,” Durant said. “Guys came in and just tried to play extremely hard. We didn’t care about anything else but playing and executing the game plan and just leaving it all out there.”

Highlights from the Brooklyn Nets’ 115-107 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday in Game 1.

And they got a solid defensive effort despite giving up plenty of size, limiting the Bucks to 13 points below their NBA-leading average.

Durant grabbed 10 rebounds and Irving had eight assists, throwing some spectacular passes as the Nets moved the ball around quickly and had the Bucks a step or more behind all night.

“We’ve got to guard defensively together, especially against this team,” Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said.

Game 2 is Monday night.

“Our guys got to execute defensively regardless of who’s on the court, execute offensively regardless of who’s on the court,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We’ve got to be better. We’ll be better Monday.”

Letters to the Los Angeles Times’ sports department for June 6.

Antetokounmpo had 34 points and 11 rebounds, but the Bucks were just six for 30 from three-point range and lost for the first time in the playoffs after storming past Miami in a first-round sweep.

Brook Lopez scored 19 points for the Bucks, and Jrue Holiday had 17 points and nine rebounds. Khris Middleton finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds but was six for 23, missing all five three-point tries.

A series that had talent all over the rosters started on a down note when Harden had to come out of the game after just 43 seconds, walking to the back after the Nets called a timeout before they had even scored.

“When you prepare for a game and he’s such a big part of the game plan, that can throw you off. But I was proud of the guys that they didn’t get rattled, they hung in there and got the win,” Nash said, adding that he had no update on Harden’s status.

Harden predicted a day earlier this series would be a showdown.

His show might already be over.

The Los Angeles Sparks (2-3) swept back-to-back home games, earning a win over the Chicago Sky (2-6) on Saturday.

The right hamstring forced Harden to miss 18 straight and 20 of 21 games late in the season. He missed games April 1 and April 4 with what was called tightness, then returned April 5 but made it through just four minutes before leaving again, with that injury termed a strain. He didn’t play again until May 12.

The Bucks gave P.J. Tucker his first start of the playoffs. He had seven points. Milwaukee was four for 19 on threes in the first half. Bryn Forbes missed all four of his attempts before making one late in the game.

Brooklyn remained without forward Jeff Green for a fourth straight game because of a left foot injury. Nets coach Steve Nash said Friday he would be considered day to day after Game 1. The Nets announced a sellout of 15,750 — featuring Beyonce and Jay-Z — with 98% fully vaccinated. Mike James had 12 points after playing less than 10 minutes in the first round against Boston.


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