The Brooklyn Nets from the start of the season have always been the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference. The dynamic, electrifying trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden is the NBA’s best big three when healthy. Looking at this series and the outcome the Nets didn’t get the result they wanted, so what went wrong for the Nets?
James Harden suffered a grade two hamstring injury that took place 43 seconds into game 1 against the Bucks for starters. Despite James Harden’s effort to come back and play games 5-7 you can tell he wasn’t himself, Harden wasn’t able to push the ball in transition, Harden wasn’t explosive, he was playing massive amounts of minutes giving his best effort but you can tell the hamstring injury was impacting him. After Kyrie went down, Harden felt almost obligated to make a return while injured fueled by championship aspirations.
Kyrie Irving going down with an ankle injury was another big blow for the Brooklyn Nets. After landing on Giannis’ ankle in game 4 Kyrie Irving would be out for the rest of the series. The Nets depend on Kyrie Irving to create shots for their offense as well as distribute the basketball, along with Durant and Harden, Irving is one of the Nets’ leaders and a floor general.
Joe Harris going ice cold. With all the defensive focus and energy being exerted towards Durant/Irving/Harden the stars need to be able to penetrate and kick it out to knock down shooters. After shooting the lights out in the regular season with a three-point percentage close to 50% Harris went ice cold shooting only 32.7% for three. For the Nets to be successful Harris’ contributions from behind the arc are a key for them, and quite frankly Harris played poorly.
Steve Nash not trusting his bench. In game 7 we saw Brooklyn’s starting lineup leave it all on the court, despite putting forth their best efforts fatigue was setting in. Each Brooklyn starter played 40+ minutes with Durant and Harden leading the way with 53 minutes apiece. With an injured Harden, Kyrie, and struggling Harris, Nash should’ve looked towards his bench for guys like Shamet, Green, Deandre Jordan, and Mike James to try and make an impact. After seeing Terrance Mann step up off the bench for the Clippers pouring in a 39 point performance essentially saving their season, Nash should’ve trusted his bench more because there was potential to help alleviate problems with starter production.
All in all, despite Kevin Durant and his masterful performances averaging 35 PPG 10 RPG & 5 APG it still wasn’t enough to will the Nets past a tough Milwaukee Bucks team. With Kyrie and Harden injured the bucks had too much firepower for Brooklyn with the Bucks’ own big three of Holiday, Giannis, and Middleton. The Bucks also have a very tall lineup that can space the floor, defend and knock down perimeter jump shots.
The gritty Milwaukee Bucks outrebounded the Nets as their lack of an inside paint presence hurt the Nets giving the Bucks extra possessions to work with and limiting Brooklyn’s second-chance points. Giannis was also very dominant throughout the series, leading his team alongside his other two co-stars in Middleton and Holiday. Brook Lopez, the Nets franchise leading scorer also played well for the Bucks causing havoc on defense and creating extra possessions for the Bucks. Lopez also chimed in with timely buckets.