Tagged in: lineup

James Harden (hamstring) struggles in 5-point return, but Brooklyn Nets win Game 5

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden was held to five points in his return to the starting lineup Tuesday night, but the Nets went on to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-108 in Game 5 in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Brooklyn leads the series 3-2.

The decision to let Harden to play was made after he tested his right hamstring on the court before tipoff. He played 37 minutes and shot 1-for-10 from the field, missing all eight of his 3-point attempts, and went scoreless in the first half. He added six rebounds, eight assists and four turnovers.

It was the first time Harden was available to play in a game since June 5, when he injured his hamstring in the first minute of Game 1 of the series. Since then, he has been dealing with what the team has called hamstring tightness.

“I’m not sure the level of risk,” head coach Steve Nash said before the game. “I think it is James’ decision. He wants to play. Ultimately, he wants to play. He’s been pushing.”

Harden participated in the Nets’ shootaround Tuesday morning with improvement in his hamstring, and that prompted the team to upgrade his status from doubtful to questionable for Game 5, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Nets are preparing to be without guard Kyrie Irving (right ankle sprain) for the rest of the series, sources said. The team hasn’t officially ruled Irving out beyond Game 5.

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Nash stated Sunday that the team would try to approach the injuries as isolated incidents and not let Irving’s ankle sprain rush Harden back to the floor before his hamstring is fully healed.

Still, Nash admitted Monday that Irving’s injury was a “driving” factor for Harden in pushing to return.

“He wants to play,” Nash said. “He wants to win a championship. He loves the playoffs and the ability to play this time of year. So, I think it’s been really difficult for him on how much he cares, how much time he puts in, how much effort he’s put in to get to this position.”

Irving was injured midway through the second quarter of Sunday’s Game 4 in Milwaukee when he landed awkwardly on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot after making a layup over Jrue Holiday. Antetokounmpo crashed the paint in what was an attempt to help Holiday, who was the primary defender.

Irving remained on the ground for several minutes as Nash and the team’s athletic trainers attended to him. Eventually, Irving walked to the locker room without assistance but was limping. He left the arena in a walking boot and on crutches. An MRI on Monday confirmed Irving’s ankle sprain.

The Nets have battled injuries all campaign.

The Big Three of Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant played just eight games together in the regular season and six games together in the playoffs — including the game in which 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 hamstring tightness.

During warm-ups Tuesday, Harden was moving well as he shot, did cutting motions and threw passes to Jeff Green. Harden had protective kinesiology tape stretched over his right hamstring.

“We have to support him the best way we can,” Nash said of Harden, “and be an aid for him to figure this out, but it’s a tricky situation — but one that we are willing to go down with James. He’s just been unbelievable for us this year, and we want to support him.”

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Anderson, Braves slip by slumping Yanks with 4 hits, win 4-1

Ian Anderson took a shutout into the seventh inning, Austin Riley homered and the Atlanta Braves scraped by with just four hits to beat punchless New York Yankees 4-1 Wednesday night.

Corey Kluber (0-2) kept New York in it with his best start yet in pinstripes, but the Yankees lost for the sixth time in seven matches due to a star-studded lineup that has almost entirely spaced out.

Anderson (1-0) limited the Yankees to four hits and four walks in 6 2/3 innings, striking out four versus the club he also beat in his major league debut last season. The 22-year-old right-hander threw 97 pitches as temperatures dipped into the low 40s in the late innings.

New York loaded the bases against Anderson with two outs in the seventh, but reliever A.J. Minter got DJ LeMahieu to hit an inning-ending grounder to third. Will Smith allowed a run in the ninth but closed out the five-hitter.

The suddenly listless Bronx Bombers are hitting .163 in their past seven matches, averaging 2.57 runs, with nearly half the lineup stuck in a serious slump.

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At 6-11, the Yankees are off to their worst start since 1991. Their 58 runs are fewest in the AL and their slugging percentage is the lowest in the major leagues.

Giancarlo Stanton had a 117.3 mph lineout but went hitless, dropping to 3 for his last 34. Gleyber Torres had a hit but is just 4 for his last 32 with 1 RBI this season. Aaron Hicks is in a 1-for-17 rut, although he walked twice. Clint Frazier blooped a ninth-inning single to break a 1-for-27 slide, picking up his first RBI of the season in his 45th plate appearance.

Gio Urshela — among the few Yankees swinging the bat well — was lifted in the top of the eighth with lower back tightness. He ran gingerly to first on an inning-ending double play in the sixth. Manager Aaron Boone said the injury does not appear to be serious and no tests are planned.

The Yankees’ pitching has been better, and Kluber (0-2) had his best start since signing an $11 million, one-year free agent deal. He was charged with two runs, two hits and four walks over 4 2/3 innings, throwing 91 pitches.

The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner was sharp until the fifth, when he permitted a single, three walks and Ehire Adrianza’s sacrifice fly before leaving with two outs, the bases loaded and Atlanta up 1-0. 

Nick Nelson relieved and walked Marcell Ozuna on four pitches to make it 2-0 before striking out Travis d’Arnaud.

New York’s defense faltered in the seventh, letting Atlanta go ahead 3-0.

First baseman Mike Ford misjudged Riley’s popup leading off, resulting in a single, and Riley advanced when second baseman LeMahieu was charged with an error for bobbling Guillermo Heredia’s grounder.

After a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk to Freddie Freeman, Riley scored when Ozuna beat out a potential double-play despite having his bat splintered by reliever Luis Cessa.

Ozuna was 0 for 4 but had two RBI. Riley was the only player in the game with two hits — including a leadoff homer against Brooks Kriske in the ninth — and also walked twice.

Riley was also hit by a ball in the mouth in the third inning but stayed in the game. Frazier made a diving catch to rob Adrianza of a hit then tried to double Riley off at first, and his throw hit Riley in the lips. Riley was visited by a trainer but stayed in the game.

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Williams scores 23, Bulls beat Raptors 118-95

Rookie Patrick Williams had a career-best 23 points to lead the Chicago Bulls past the Toronto Raptors, 118-95 Sunday night.

Zach LaVine scored 15 to help the Bulls end a two-game slide. Coby White had 13 points and Wendell Carter Jr. added 12 points and 11 rebounds after the two were removed from the starting five for the first time this campaign.

Chicago kept a double-digit lead for most of the second half and enjoyed a nice cushion after Denzel Valentine made three 3-pointers during a 9-0 run that pushed the lead to 96-78 with eight minutes remaining. Toronto, which had won 12 consecutive versus Chicago, never got closer than 11 the rest of the night.

Norman Powell scored 32 points as the depleted Raptors, down five regulars, lost their fifth straight. Kyle Lowry had 20 points and eight assists before being ejected in the final minutes after picking up his second technical foul for arguing with officials.

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Lowry stated he didn’t think the pressure of fighting to stay in the playoff hunt — a new experience for the Raptors after several seasons of riding in the upper half of the Eastern Conference standings — or even his actions led to his ejection.

“I really didn’t do anything,” he said. “Sometimes I guess egos get bigger. … This is very unconventional but we’ve just got to find a way to get through it.”

Chicago coach Billy Donovan hinted at lineup changes a day earlier and followed through Sunday as Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky each made their first starts of the campaign, bumping White and Carter from the opening five. Each of the new starters finished with 10 points.

Donovan, disappointed with his regular starters’ lapses after they returned from last weekend’s All-Star break, said the move was hardly meant to punish White and Carter — or set in stone.

“I really appreciate Coby and Wendell making sacrifices for the team,” Donovan said. “It’s not like those guys are out of the rotation or not important pieces of the team.

“It’s more about trying to get a consistent combination through 48 minutes.”

Carter was a reserve most of last season and didn’t seem to take the lineup shift personally.

“It was fun mixing the lineups,” he said. “It was really nothing new to me. I just knew I had to come in and be aggressive. … (The change) had to be made and it is what it is. We weren’t clicking on all cylinders like we’re supposed to.”

The Bulls took the lead for good late in the opening quarter and went on a 9-0 run near the end of the first half to take a 58-49 lead to the break.

Carter, a starter in all 25 games he’d played this season, made his first four shots after entering the game late in the first.

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