KD, Nets Face Uphill Battle Amid Injuries

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Kevin Durant Kyrie Irving Nets
Kyrie Irving #11 and Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets watch from the bench during the first half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Phoenix Suns Arena on February 16, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.

With their full complement of superstars, the Brooklyn Nets might be virtually unbeatable.

But if Kevin Durant doesn’t have Kyrie Irving and James Harden by his side, the East favorites will have a difficult time winning more than a single playoff series.

That’s what the latest betting odds suggest in the wake of injuries to both Irving and Harden. The Nets are still favored to win the 2021 NBA Finals, but they are actually underdogs against the Milwaukee Bucks in their second-round series.

Brooklyn and Milwaukee are knotted at 2-2 heading into Tuesday night’s Game 5 at Barclays Center. Harden has played less than a minute in the series because of hamstring tightness, and Irving left Game 4 with a sprained ankle. There is no timeline for either player, but there appears to be a good chance they will both miss Game 5, if not the rest of the second round.

The Bucks are -129 favorites to win the series at DraftKings Sportsbook. The Nets have +105 odds to win two of the next three games and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

But Brooklyn has +165 odds to win the East, putting it ahead of Milwaukee and its +175 odds. With +260 championship odds, the Nets remain considerable betting favorites to win the title.

The Phoenix Suns, who have already advanced to the Western Conference Finals, are behind Brooklyn with +375 odds to win the NBA Finals. The Utah Jazz lead all West teams with +340 title odds. Milwaukee has +450 odds to win the championship.

Their series with the Bucks could be the Nets’ biggest challenge. If Brooklyn makes it to the next round, Irving and Harden will have more time to recover from their injuries and return to the court.

The Philadelphia 76ers or Atlanta Hawks will face the Nets or Bucks in the conference finals.

All eyes will be on Durant for as long as Irving and Harden are sidelined. The two-time NBA Finals MVP has played as well as anyone this postseason, averaging 31.3 points on just 21.4 shot attempts per game. Milwaukee was able to focus on stopping Durant when Irving left Game 4, and Brooklyn’s best player missed 64% of his field-goal attempts.

Even if Durant is now the NBA’s best player, as some have argued, carrying Brooklyn’s supporting cast to the Finals might be too much to ask. 

Durant, Harden and Irving form the league’s top threesome when healthy. Milwaukee could have the much better trio the rest of the series in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.

The Nets cruised past the Boston Celtics in a five-game first-round series when its stars were able to avoid injury.

Kevin Durant Kyrie Irving Nets

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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