Kyrie Irving’s Ankle Sprain, Harden’s Hamstring Will Keep Them Out Of Game 5 Against The Bucks (UPDATE)

The Nets looked like they had a stranglehold on their second round series with the Bucks as they left Brooklyn with a 2-0 series lead, but as the series returns to New York, things have changed dramatically. The Bucks won both games at home to even things at 2-2, but it was Game 4 that created bigger worries for Brooklyn, as Kyrie Irving sprained his right ankle in the late second quarter when he landed on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot in the paint.

It was a brutal blow for a team that already saw James Harden suffer a hamstring injury a minute into Game 1, and with two stars out their margin for error was effectively nil, even with Kevin Durant in the lineup, as Milwaukee steadily pulled away for a big win. Going into Game 5, the Nets know they’ll be without Irving, announcing he would be out on Monday afternoon with that ankle sprain.

UPDATE: As for Harden, he was working out on Monday in hopes of a return later in the series, but the team quickly ruled him out of Game 5.

That, obviously, would make a massive difference, but after Game 4 Steve Nash was quick to be clear that they won’t rush Harden back and that the criteria for his return remain the same with the medical staff. With how much better the Bucks played at home in Milwaukee in Games 3 and 4 (and all season), Game 5 feels crucial for the Nets to take and hold homecourt.