The first game of the Brooklyn Nets’ new big three, named “Scary Hours,” of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving, did not go as planned.
The Nets lost 147-135 in a double-overtime game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It’s good to keep in mind that this is the first game that the big three plays together, so there is no need to overact. However, this game had its highs and lows and showed how good the team could be and its biggest weakness.
First, the big three all played well; they filled up the stat sheet and did what was expected of them.
Durant put up 38 points on 48% from the field, along with 12 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 blocks. Harden, who only scored 2 points in the first half, but ended the game with his second tribble double as a Net, putting up 21 points, with 10 rebounds and 12 assists. Irving put on an offensive clinic making difficult shots look easy, scoring 37 points on a 53% shooting. They combined for an impressive 96 points but still lost.
The biggest reason for the loss was on the defensive end. The Nets could not make stops, and players were consistently open beyond the three-point line, former Net Taurean Prince went 3 for 5 from three, and all attempts were wide open. The game had a shootout feel to it the whole time, and eventually, in overtime, the Nets could no longer keep up when Collin Sexton, who became ungradable in the second overtime scoring 15 points.
The offense of the Cavaliers has flat out not been good this season. A lot of this can be excused by Sexton and Darius Garland, the Cavaliers young starting backcourt being injured for chunks of the season. The Cavaliers only average 102.9 points a game, which ranks 29th in the league. They would surpass their average in regular time, putting up 113 points and an extra 34 points in the 10 minutes of overtime. The Cavaliers as a team shot 51% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc.
Most of this offense came from Sexton, who played his first game back after an ankle sprain; he went off for 42 points on a 55% from the field and 46% from three-point land, along with his 22 points in overtime alone. Cedi Osman also scored 25 points on 53% shooting and 44% from beyond the arc, along with 7 rebounds and 7 assists. On top of that, the only Cavalier to not score over 10 points was rookie Isaac Okoro.
With the defense being an evident weakness, the offense was a clear advantage and this game laid down the building blocks for what is to come for this offense.
It looks like Head Coach Steve Nash will put the offense in Harden’s hands, which makes sense based on his success over the last few years running the offense for the Houston Rockets.
Putting the ball in Harden’s hands puts Durant and Irving mostly as off-ball players while Harden is on the court, which they both can excel in. Durant already has experience playing off-ball from his time with the Golden State Warriors, but Irving has less experience, and he was the one to watch to see how he plays in this new role. He seemed comfortable running off screens and pin downs, which then caused mismatches, which Irving went to work exposing.
On top of that, the way that Nash handled the big three’s minutes was perfect. At no time in the game did Durant, Harden, or Irving sit on the bench at one time. This minute management style allows each All-Star to get their own time to shine or play a two-man game with the other, letting a Star rest. Ensuring that the opposing defense has no time to rest as there is always one elite offensive player on the court at all times. When all three were on the court, Joe Harris, Jeff Green, and even Irving were left open beyond the three-point line to hit easy shots.
The offense still had some awkward moments when Harden dribbled the ball for 14 seconds to take a three that more often missed, even though he hit a clutch one late in the fourth quarter. Also, while having Harden run the show is good, when he doesn’t have the ball, he is flat-footed and doesn’t move around as much. This was an issue for Harden when he was a Rocket, and maybe the coaching staff can correct it. Irving was hitting difficult shots in the first half but kept taking those same shots in the second half and couldn’t make them, which could because he just missed a few games.
The offense looked like a team playing its first game together with bad passes and some awful turnovers. Harden and Irving both combined for 9 of the Nets 16 turnovers, but the hope is that these mistakes get ironed out because if so, the offense might be unguardable. These mistakes will eventually be ironed out over time, practices, and building trust with one another.
All in all, this offense will soon reach its full potential and be dominant; the issue will now be can the defense at least get a little better.
Bruce Brown or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot are defensive-minded players who are on the bench who could get more time and even be out in the starting lineup to make it more balanced.
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