Alarm bells blaring for Nets after Kyrie Irving injury

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Sometimes, it’s best simply to let the metaphor speak for itself.

“A mechanical issue in the administrative offices at Fiserv Forum triggered [an] alarm,” came a statement from arena security, maybe an hour after the Milwaukee Bucks were done stomping the Nets on Sunday, 107-96 in Milwaukee. “Although the building was evacuated for precautionary reasons, there was no fire.”

There is no actual fire attached to the Nets right now, either, not quite, not yet. But make no mistake: the alarm bells are blaring. The Nets, on Thursday, were two possessions away from taking a 3-0 lead in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series. They couldn’t quite finish that off.

Sixty-eight or so hours later, the sirens began to sound. That was when the Bucks went on an out-of-the-sky 21-4 run across four first-half minutes that turned an 11-point Nets lead into a 44-38 cushion for Milwaukee.

Ten seconds later, the horns began to howl. That’s when Kyrie Irving went up for a layup and came down on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot. The replay of that instant will make you nauseous if you are a former playground or YMCA lifer who’s rolled that joint a hundred times in your life.

Also if you are a Nets fan.

Because in that moment, the primary piece of your Anxiety Closet opened the door and started to tap-dance all over your best-laid plans. The Nets, before being crowned champions of the NBA, had already been declared the heavyweight champs of some other categories:

The champs of next-man-up.

The champs of pick-a-teammate-up.

Steve Nash and the Nets have a tough task ahead after the injury to Kyrie Irving on Sunday.

The champs of ignoring the guys in street clothes on any given night and focusing instead on the men wear ing one of the 38 different uniform options the Nets use.

But all of that, inspiring as it was across the long regular season, was a smokescreen for the 8,000-pound teal hippopotamus sitting in every gym in which they played:

Can the Nets stay in one piece?

Right now, the answer is unknown. Right now, the Nets are in pieces. James Harden missed his third straight game with a bum hamstring. And now Irving has an ankle that, barring some kind of divine intervention, will at least be an issue for him going forward, assuming he can go forward.

X-rays were negative on Irving’s ankle, but all you had to do was watch replay of the moment for the 10th time, or watch the agony etched on his face, or observe how gingerly he made his way to the locker room to know: This is going to be a problem. It will be surprising if he doesn’t at least give it a go Tuesday night in Game 5. It will be even more so if he can summon a significant percentile of his usual brilliant self that night.

“We have to allow the adversity,” coach Steve Nash said, “to make us stronger.”

It is hard to imagine a more adverse scenario than the one in which the Nets suddenly find themselves. Let’s go with the best-case scenario and say everyone is available Tuesday night. Jeff Green returned from his own painful plantar fascia injury to play 27 solid minutes Sunday. Let’s say Harden gives it a go (though Nash insisted he wouldn’t be rushed back without a few all-clear practices under his belt). Let’s say Irving gives it the old college try.

That would be terrific, on paper.

In reality? Have you ever hurt your plantar fascia? Tweaked your hamstring? Sprained your ankle? Now imagine trying to negotiate the pain from any of those things while playing professional basketball.

With your season suddenly hanging in the balance.

“Everyone’s prepared,” Green said. “Everybody’s ready.”

It would be for the best if that were the case, and not simply if your loyalties lie with the Nets. This is suddenly a fascinating series. Jrue Holiday rescued the Bucks on Thursday night with what turned out to be the game-winning drive. They seized the moment Sunday with only one of the Nets’ Big 3 available across the game’s final 2 ½ quarters (and while Kevin Durant scored 28 points he did it on 9-for-25 shooting, an Antetokounmpo-ian 1-for-8 from 3).

The Bucks have been resurrected, and revived, and suddenly don’t seem near the flat-line basketball corpse that limped out of Barclays Center last week. The series is officially on, with the highest stakes possible on the table. Both teams should be at their best. Both teams should be at their healthiest. Right now, it seems only one will be.

It’s the absolute worst time to hear alarm bells clanging in the distance. Actually, that’s simply the Nets’ team plane. Same difference.

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