In what was the highly anticipated return of Kyrie Irving and the debut of the newly formed big three of Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets dropped a very winnable game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers 135-147 in double overtime in Cleveland.
The first quarter was great, as the Nets started the game a perfect ten for ten from the field. But then Cleveland went on a 17-0 run and regained control for the rest of the way. This game had a little bit of everything, so let’s look at some of the biggest takeaways.
Harden Is Okay With Being a Distributor
Of course, many were questioning how the Nets’ Big Three would fit together. While there are still some questions, James Harden is doing everything he can to make it work. Harden was a pass-first player in tonight’s game, making it look like his connection with DeAndre Jordan dates back years ago. He was that comfortable distributing the ball. This is crucial, as it shows Harden is willing to sacrifice in order for the team to succeed. It’s something Harden is going to need to continue if the Nets’ Big Three is going to work.
Offensively, the Nets are one of the best in the business. No one can stop them. It’s as simple as that. Defensively, however, there are problems. The Nets cannot play defense for their lives. This was an initial worry with the Harden trade and that worry is very much true. The Nets have no answer for guards, especially guards who can shoot. The Nets were basically daring Collin Sexton to shoot tonight, and he made them pay with 42 points and five threes. And on the inside, the Nets simply have no rim protection. DeAndre Jordan is past his prime, and Andre Drummond and Jarrett Allen did whatever they wanted around the rim tonight. Unless the Nets trade for an inside presence/wing defender, the defense might be what holds them back. With such big offensive roles being taken on by Durant and Irving, along with Harden being known as one of the worst/laziest defenders in the league, there are some major holes to fill on the defensive end, holes that need to be filled sooner rather than later.
Who is Taking the Last Shot?!
This Nets team is supposed to specialize in closing games, but that was not the case tonight. In the fourth quarter, it was Harden attempting to come to the rescue, an interesting choice considering he had been quiet for most of the game. Harden missed the stepback three and the game then went to overtime. In OT, it was Durant taking what was the final shot of the game, a fadeaway jumper on the left side, which he also missed. And in the second overtime, there was no last-second shot, but throughout this second overtime period, Kyrie Irving continuously took low percentage midrange shots that even for him seemed unlikely to go in. For the team that is supposed to generate high percentage shots due to all their star power, well, no one could hit a shot in the second OT. Often, Cleveland’s zone confused Brooklyn, not allowing them to get their usual looks. This leads me to my last point…
The Bench is Struggling
James Harden and Kevin Durant both played over 50 minutes. Kyrie Irving, Jeff Green, and Joe Harris played over 40. Deandre Jordan played 25. The rest of the team, well, played a combined 28 minutes (Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot, Reggie Perry, and Bruce Brown). No matter how you spin it, the Nets have one of the weakest benches in the league after the Harden trade. TLC has really been struggling as of late, completely losing his three-point touch, and Perry’s inexperience has really been showing. It was a bit surprising that Steve Nash didn’t play Shamet at all tonight after a few solid games from him. But what was especially surprising was that Bruce Brown, who has been one of the Nets’ better players throughout the season and who has started multiple games, only got seven minutes tonight. With such minimal bench production, so much is left to the starters, which is definitely a reason why the Nets went cold in overtime, with fatigue catching up to them. Nash just doesn’t have the confidence to give big minutes to anyone off of the bench besides Harris.
Overall, this was a disappointing result for such an anticipated game, but we all have to remember, it’s going to take time for this team to gel. No need to panic. Yet.
Kevin Durant: 38 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, 12-25 FG, 3-9 3PT, 50 minutes
Kyrie Irving: 37 minutes, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 15-28 FG, 3-9 3PT, 48 minutes
James Harden: 21 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 6-14 FG, 3-6 3PT 50 minutes
Collin Sexton: 42 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 16-29 FG, 5-11 3PT, 1 TO
Cedi Osman: 25 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 2-9 FG, 4-9 3PT
Jarrett Allen: 12 points, 12 rebounds, 4 BLK, 31 minutes