NEW ORLEANS • If the Brooklyn Nets are to pip the Philadelphia 76ers to the No. 1 play-off seeding in the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Eastern Conference, they will likely have to do it without James Harden.
The nine-time NBA All-Star is out indefinitely after suffering a setback during his rehabilitation from an injured hamstring, the team announced on Tuesday.
"We're back to square one," Nets coach Steve Nash said. "He will be back when he's back. It might be the play-offs. It might be sooner.
"Not much more to it other than just disappointment and that we have to rebuild and get him going again."
The 31-year-old, who had been absent for the Nets' last six games, aggravated the injury during an on-court session, according to the team, and will undergo an MRI scan to determine the extent of the damage.
Harden, the league's scoring champion for the past three seasons, is averaging 25.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 11 assists in 34 games since joining Brooklyn in January from the Houston Rockets in a three-team trade.
Kevin Durant also missed the Nets' match-up at the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday with a thigh contusion, along with reserves Nicolas Claxton and Reggie Perry, but the visitors still managed to hold off the hosts 134-129.
Kyrie Irving scored 32 points and Joe Harris had 24 to lead seven Brooklyn players in double figures.
Teammates Landry Shamet had 18, Blake Griffin scored 16, Jeff Green had 15, Bruce Brown contributed 11 while Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot scored 10.
Durant, Harden and Irving have all missed at least 10 games for the Nets, who are attempting to win their first league championship this season.
According to ESPN Stats and Information research, no team have had all three of their leading scorers (in terms of points per game) miss double-digit regular-season games and gone on to win the title.
Despite missing their key trio for significant stretches of the campaign so far, the Nets have managed to hold things together and with a 39-19 record, are second in the East behind the Sixers (39-18).
"We just all want reps together. But if we're not able to get that then we'll have to figure it out," Irving said after the game.
"And that's just the sentiment throughout the season. Just figuring out this process and meshing us together and game by game... just being there for one another. Just stay in communication."
Zion Williamson scored 33 points, Brandon Ingram had 27, Lonzo Ball and Naji Marshall added 15 each, and Kira Lewis Jr had 11 for the Pelicans (25-33), who lost their fourth straight game to remain 11th in the Western Conference.