NEW YORK – Brooklyn Nets star James Harden will play Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks. The decision was made after the player tested his hamstring at the Barclays Center before the start of the game Tuesday night.
It will be the first time Harden has been available to play since June 5, when he injured his right hamstring. Since then, he has been dealing with what the team has called hamstring strain.
“I’m not sure of the level of risk,” Steve Nash said before the game. “I think it’s James’ decision. He wants to play. Ultimately, he wants to play. He’s been pushing.”
Harden participated in the Nets’ shooting practice Tuesday morning with an improvement from the injury and that led to the team moving its status from doubtful to questionable for Game 5, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Harden was injured in the first minute of Game 1 of the series against the Bucks.
The series is tied 2-2 and the Nets are preparing to play without point guard Kyrie Irving (sprained right ankle) for the remainder of the series, sources said. The team hasn’t officially ruled Irving beyond Game 5.
Nash said Sunday that the team would try to address the injuries as isolated incidents and would not let Irving’s sprained ankle carry Harden back to the floor before his hamstring is fully healed.
Still, Nash admitted Monday that Irving’s injury was a factor that “prompted” Harden to push back.
“He wants to play,” Nash said. “He wants to win a championship. He loves the playoffs and the ability to play at this time of year. So, I think it has been very difficult for him how much he cares, how much time he spends, how much effort he has put into getting to this position.” .
Irving was injured midway through the second quarter of Game 4 Sunday at Milwaukee when he fell to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot after laying a layup off Jrue Holiday.
Irving remained on the ground for several minutes while Nash and the team’s athletic trainers tended to him. Finally, Irving walked to the locker room without help, but he was limping. He came out of the sand with a walking boot and on crutches. An MRI on Monday confirmed Irving’s sprained ankle.
The Nets have battled injuries all season. His ‘Big Three’, Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant played just eight games together in the regular season and six games together in the Playoffs, including the game where Harden was injured after just 43 seconds. Harden missed 18 games in the regular season with a hamstring strain and before that he missed two with a hamstring strain.
During Tuesday’s warm-ups, Harden moved well as he threw, made cutting moves and threw passes to Jeff Green. He had a protective kinesiology tape stretched over his right hamstring.
“We have to support him in the best way we can,” Nash said of Harden, “And help him figure this out, but it’s a tough situation, but one that we’re willing to accept with James. He’s been amazing for us this year and we want to support him. “