Earlier today, Brooklyn Nets’ James Harden was confirmed to sit out Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference semi-finals series against the Milwaukee Bucks. Harden suffered a right hamstring injury less than a minute into Game 1, as he went down after his first drive to the basket. In his absence, the likes of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have caught fire while Steve Nash has introduced Bruce Brown Jr. to the starting lineup.
So far, the Brooklyn Nets have let the Milwaukee Bucks have a size advantage. They have instead exploited them in transition with some top-quality passing and shooting. The Nets produced a 35-point blowout victory in Game 2 and were comfortable enough during Game 1 as well. In this article, we look at how the Nets have lined up and how they are expected to lineup in James Harden’s now prolonged absence.
2021 NBA Playoffs Round 2: How will the Brooklyn Nets line up without James Harden?
James Harden has now been confirmed to miss Game 3. DeAndre Jordan last started during the Brooklyn Nets’ loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on 4th May. The Brooklyn Nets have opted for a smaller lineup, with Blake Griffin replacing him as the starting five since then. The plan appears to be to exploit the Bucks’ dependence upon Brook Lopez. He tends to drop deep and allow the Nets to exploit spaces inside the paint, and find their three-point shooters with easy looks on the basket.
The star trio of James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are all lethal on transition and have found prolific form since Jordan was ousted from the lineup. Now that Harden is out, his absence appears to have had little to no impact on how the Brooklyn Nets line up. Harden has been replaced by the likes of Mike James and Bruce Brown Jr. in the past two matches.
Both players have acted as support-guards alongside Kyrie Irving. Him and Kevin Durant have shown off their playmaking and shooting skills in the two games so far. In this scenario, it appears that the Milwaukee Bucks are straight up playing into the Brooklyn Nets’ hands.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is being crowded out inside the paint, with his free throw and overall shooting leaving a lot to be desired. The likes of Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday have struggled to get easy looks, and Mike Budenholzer might be tempted to bring about a change in personnel for Game 3.
Regardless, James Harden’s injury has not led to any large-scale change in the Brooklyn Nets’ playoff approach. The two easy victories mean that they will be tempted to stick to the same lineup that they had in the last game. Bruce Brown Jr. should start alongside Irving, with Durant and Joe Harris the forwards, with Blake Griffin resuming his impressive run of starts at center position.