Kevin Durant scored 29 points, Kyrie Irving scored 25 points and 8 assists, as the Brooklyn Nets survived an injury to James Harden and pulled away late for a 115-107 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday in New York.

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Game 2 takes place on Monday night in Brooklyn, and it could be played without Harden, who injured his right hamstring in the opening minute of the first quarter and did not return.

“You know we got a lot thrown at us this year, so we were, in a sense, well trained for this event,” Nets coach Steve Nash said after the game. “But you never want to see that for someone like James, who is such an important player and such an incredible player and cares so much.

“I’m heartbroken for him. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if he’s playing the next game, if he’s out. I have no idea. But I’m heartbroken for him that he had to miss tonight.”

The play the injury occurred on was innocuous — a simple drive against Bucks guard Jrue Holiday. But after Harden lofted a pass to the opposite corner, he landed and immediately grabbed at his right hamstring. The Nets lost the ball out of bounds, ran another play and then Milwaukee took the ball down to the opposite end of the court; but in that entire stretch, Harden never moved at a pace faster than a walk. When play stopped at the other end, Harden just walked off the court and straight into the locker room.

“I didn’t realize what had happened until he had started walking off the court, but we supposed to run [a] play and he wasn’t in his spot, and I looked at him, he was grimacing,” said Kevin Durant, who had 29 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Nets to the win. “It just sucks. It sucks. It sucks because I want him to be out there.

“I know how much he cares. I know how much he wants to be in this moment. It sucks. Wishing him a speedy recovery. Keep him involved as much as possible. It’s just a bad break.

What makes the injury all the more concerning for Brooklyn, as far as Harden’s ability to return in the series is concerned, is that this is the same hamstring that saw him miss over a month before returning for the final week of the regular season.

Harden then returned to play in two games before the postseason began, and he had no issues in Brooklyn’s five-game demolition of the Boston Celtics in the first round.

Kyrie Irving added 25 points and eight assists as the Nets shot 46.9 per cent and had enough scoring to compensate for Harden’s absence.

Blake Griffin contributed 18 points and 14 rebounds, and matched a playoff career-high with four three-pointers. Mike James added 12 points and seven rebounds.

More time for Giannis equals more success for Bucks
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Sky Sports NBA analyst Huw Hopkins looks at how increased minutes for Giannis Antetokounmpo are making a difference for the Milwaukee Bucks in this year’s NBA Playoffs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 34 points. He shot 16 of 24 from the field and helped Milwaukee score 72 points in the paint, but the Bucks were just 6-for-30 from three-point range and lost for the first time in the playoffs after storming past Miami in a first-round sweep.

Former Net Brook Lopez added 19 points and Jrue Holiday contributed 17. Khris Middleton was held to 13 points on 6 of 23 from the floor and 0 of 5 from three-point range.

Without Harden, the Nets still gradually took control, taking the lead for good a little over three minutes into the second quarter before building a 14-point lead through three quarters.

Brooklyn Nets

Points Rebounds Assists
James Harden 0 1 0
Kyrie Irving 25 5 8
Joe Harris 19 2 2
Kevin Durant 29 10 3
Blake Griffin 18 14 3

Durant shot 12 of 25, and two of his biggest baskets occurred after Antetokounmpo’s 18-footer and three-pointer made it 103-93 with 7:01 remaining. He converted a seven-footer in the lane, and following a missed layup by Middleton, Durant threw down a dunk off a no-look feed from Irving to make it 107-93 with 6:24 left.

Brooklyn clinched the win when Irving hit Harris with a bounce pass from underneath the rim for a corner three-pointer that made it 115-96 with 3:41 remaining.