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Practice Notes: Harden active and Irving out for Game 6

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Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets - Game Five Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets are just one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, headed to Milwaukee for a pivotal Game 6 while holding the series advantage, 3-2. In preparation for perhaps the biggest game of the season, Steve Nash spoke with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, providing a variety of updates on Brooklyn’s injuries, Kevin Durant’s historic Game 5 performance, and much more. Here’s a quick overview.

Injury update.

It wouldn’t be a practice log during the 2020-2021 NBA season without an injury update, am I right? *Sighs*

Steve Nash listed Kyrie Irving as OUT for Game 6 due to an ankle sprain he sustained in Game 4, which shouldn’t come as a massive surprise given the previous reporting from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski indicating that Irving could very well miss the entire series against Milwaukee. When asked to provide any updates to Irving’s status, particularly a grade for his ankle sprain, Nash responded with “sorry, maybe I should know that.”

Nash did, however, provide an inside look into Irving’s rehabilitation process.

“Just off-court right now,” said Nash about Irving’s treatment. “I’m not positive but I’m sure he’s getting some manual therapy and some modules just trying to get the swelling down and speed the recovery as quickly as possible.”

James Harden, meanwhile, will be active for Game 6 according to Nash after playing 46 minutes against the Bucks on Tuesday. The Nets head coach relayed information that Harden and Durant — the latter of which played all 48 minutes in Game 5 — are doing well this morning after taking on a heavy load.

“Good. They both feel good and came out the game fine,” said Nash. “They played a lot of minutes — a heavy burden on them but they both came through really well and feel good this morning.”

Nash didn’t commit either way as to whether these minutes totals would continue for Brooklyn’s stars as the Nets soldier on during this apocalyptic playoff run.

“I think that’s something we have to feel out as we go. There is no championship if we don’t get out of the series. There is obviously a point where you have to go and you have to play like we did last night. If it presents itself that we don’t have to overburden them, we’d be happy not to,” said Nash. “If we have to, we have to, and that’s just the nature.”

Steve Nash calls Kevin Durant’s Game 5 “maybe his best playoff performance ever”

Kevin Durant’s 49-point, 17-rebound, and 10-assist Game 5 was more than just a performance, it was an ethereal experience. Durant was so good against the Bucks in the do-or-die game that his head coach, Steve Nash, engulfed him in a warm embrace that almost immediately became a social media meme.

When asked about what came over him at that moment, Nash shared the level of pride he felt for Durant, reflecting on KD’s grueling rehabilitation from his Achillies tendon tear to get him back to this moment — a moment he described as “maybe his best playoff performance ever.”

“I was just really proud of him. I know what he puts on the line every night and his work ethic and his routine. Just the commitment he gave to that rehab of a career-threatening injury. To be all the way back and having maybe his best playoff performance ever, it’s just incredible. I was just really proud of him, happy for him, and grateful as our leader for him to come out there and play like that, it’s remarkable,” Nash said. “I just wanted to show my appreciation.”

The 2021 NBA championship, a battle of attrition?

Much like the regular season, the 2021 NBA playoffs have been hallmarked by crushing injuries and absences more than actual keystone performances. Just in the last 24 hours, LA’s Kawhi Leonard is out for an indefinite amount of time due to ACL injury, Phoenix’s Chris Paul is out with health & safety protocols, and Mike Conley is still on the injured reserve with a reaggravated hamstring strain.

The Nets, down Kyrie Irving and playing with a hampered James Harden, are no strangers to this reality. Just getting through this season in one piece is an accomplishment in itself; winning it all is a whole ‘nother story.

“The championship this year will be decided on health as much as anything,” said Nash. “I’m not sure about the shortened offseason as much as the condensed schedule. I think we’re seeing a lot of players who have just had incredible intense workloads for a number of months now. That is just difficult, you’re playing 4 games a week basically over the course of 4-5 months, whatever it is. That’s just a lot and it catches up with you. It’s understandable why we’re seeing that and that’s what the parameters are. It’s a battle of attrition this season as much as it is anything.”

The war of attrition NBA title. Quite the tagline.