The Nets confirmed Irving's absence on Monday, with head coach Steve Nash telling reporters he had "no idea" if his star guard would return in the series. Shortly after Irving was ruled out due to the ankle injury he suffered in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Brooklyn also said Harden would not play in Game 5.
Word of Irving and Harden's absences comes after ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski noted on KJZ it was unlikely the star would be healthy enough to play in the pivotal matchup:
He noted Harden had made "progress" in his recovery from a hamstring injury.
These injuries are a concern for a Brooklyn team that is in championship-or-bust mode. When one or both of the guards is out, it puts pressure on Kevin Durant to carry the team.
Irving is one of the best offensive playmakers in the league as a seven-time All-Star who can break down opponents off the dribble, hit from the outside and facilitate when defenders collapse on him. He averaged 26.9 points, 6.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game in 2020-21 for a Nets squad that finished with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Harden has been just as good in his first season with the team, averaging 24.6 points and 10.9 assists per game.
In Irving and Harden's absences, look for Brooklyn to turn toward Mike James and Landry Shamet for more playing time while Durant tries to carry the offense.