NEW YORK – The Brooklyn Nets had all the shooting and goal shots any team could want.
They just didn’t have the health every team needs.
Kevin Durant was spectacular in his first postseason in Brooklyn, but in the end a Big Three had dropped to 1 1/2. Kyrie Irving was on the bench and James Harden probably should have been.
This is what Brooklyn did many times after putting its three superstars together. It looked unstoppable on paper.
There just wasn’t much to see on the square.
“We gave everything we had,” said Harden. “Just worrying about injuries over the course of the year set us back.”
That contributed to an end far earlier than the Nets expected. Brooklyn was eliminated with a 115-111 loss of overtime against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Irving missed the last 3 1/2 games of the series with a sprained right ankle. Harden only played 43 seconds of Games 1-4 due to tension in the right hamstrings, then came back with little agility to play the last three.
Things like that happened a lot to the Nets. Just like one All-Star would come back, another would go out. Durant, Irving and Harden only played the same game eight times in the regular season and only got one round together in the postseason.
“So much adversity this year,” said coach Steve Nash. “The first year together. So many changes in the roster. So many injuries. COVID logs. They couldn’t have given us more. “
The Nets hit 48-24, the best win rate in franchise history and the second best record in the east. They were runner-up in the league on goalscorers and 3-point percentages, led the league on field goal percentages, scoring 120 points 34 times, almost half of their games.
But that firepower was exhausted by the middle of the second round. All the nets really had was Durant, and that was almost enough. He had 49 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 5 and then 48 points, the most ever in a Game 7, while playing every 53 minutes.
The plan was for him to get more help and win more games.
“We want to win,” said Durant. “We want to win every game we play. We want to win a championship every year, just like every team. “
They didn’t get nearly close enough.
Things to know about the Nets at the start of their offseason:
After missing a season to recover from an Achilles tendon, Durant looked just as handsome as he did when he won four NBA titles. He averaged 26.9 points and made career highs by shooting 53.7% out of the field and 45% out of 3-point range.
Harden said after Game 7 that he was basically playing with a Class 2 hamstring strain. He was out of shape to start the season in Houston and perhaps that led to an injury-ridden finish in Brooklyn, where he missed 20 of 21 games with hamstring problems in the second half.
OCCUPY THE CENTER
The center spot is probably the Nets’ biggest need. DeAndre Jordan lost his starting role and ultimately his place in the rotation completely, LaMarcus Aldridge had to retire due to a heart disease and Blake Griffin had to start despite being undersized. The Nets need to determine if sophomore year Nicolas Claxton is the answer or if they need to look outside.
The Nets provided experienced staff for their rookie head coach. But seven teams are currently looking for new coaches and some of Nash’s assistants, like two-time coach of the year Mike D’Antoni and Ime Udoka, could be candidates.
Rounding off the roster
With Durant, Irving and Harden all under contract, the Nets have all made their big strides and should just have to build around them. Veterans like Griffin and Aldridge were excited to sign up for a chance at a ring cheaply, and the Nets should be able to interest more players like them.
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