The Brooklyn Nets will have to play the Milwaukee Bucks without one of their superstars for at least one more game.
Nets head coach Steve Nash told reporters on Wednesday that star guard James Harden, who played just 43 seconds combined in Games 1 and 2 of their East semifinal series due to a reaggravated hamstring injury, has been ruled out for Game 3 on Thursday night in Milwaukee. Although Harden is "progressing nicely," according to Nash, there's no timetable for his return.
Harden missed 20 of 21 games late in the regular season with a strained hamstring. So, is it safe to assume the Nets, which own a commanding 2-0 series lead, will keep Harden sidelined until the Eastern Conference Finals? NBA on TNT reporter Jared Greenberg isn't so sure of that.
"The Nets aren't ruling James Harden out for the series," Greenberg told the Tiki and Tierney show on Wednesday. "I find it hard to believe -- particularly if it's a short series -- I find it hard to believe that Harden plays. But one of the other things I've gotten from talking to people around the Nets is that, yes, he missed 21 games with a similar injury to his right hamstring during the regular season, but the Nets also -- at that point in the season -- knew they were going to be a top three team in the East. They were looking long-term at protecting Harden, and really trying to be ultra cautious.
"Not to say that they would ever jeopardize his short or long-term future, but I think they'd be more inclined with that same injury to play him in the playoffs than they were sitting him in the regular season. So, Steve Nash told me he's hopeful that Harden is back for this series. Again, I can't see that happening if it's a short series. But if this thing goes six or seven and the Bucks can stun some people, then yeah, I can see the Nets trying to throw him out there."
Harden, a nine-time All-Star, averaged 27.8 points with 10.6 assists and 7.2 rebounds in Brooklyn's first-round series against the Boston Celtics. He also averaged nearly nine free throw attempts per game, and made 46.1-percent of his three-point attempts.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven series will take place on Thursday night, with tipoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET. According to FiveThirtyEight's projections, the Nets currently have an 86-percent chance of advancing to the East Finals for the first time since 2003.
The entire NBA conversation between Greenberg and Tiki and Tierney can be accessed in the audio player above.