Why Did Kevin Durant Led Brooklyn Nets Fail in 2021 to Win an NBA Ring?
Coming into the playoffs, the Brooklyn Nets were touted as the tournament favorites. With their biggest challenge, the defending champions Lakers looking shaky and banged up and the big three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden all looking healthy, the Nets were the team to beat.
The trio of Harden, Irving and Durant certainly got off to a commanding start in the first round. Leading the series 2-0, the Nets ultimately conceded only a single game and clinched the series in 4-1.
Ahead of their series against the Bucks, Brooklyn were the favorites to advance to the Conference Finals. Two weeks later, that clearly hasn’t been the case. Despite having such a stacked roster, the Nets have crashed out of the playoffs losing 4-3 to Giannis Antetokounmpo & Co. But why did the Nets falter in the post-season?
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Injuries to superstars Kyrie Irving and James Harden
The Nets were one of the biggest teams to be hurt by the injury bug this regular season. Despite injuries to James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant accounting for a combined 83 games, the Nets still managed to have one of the best records in the Eastern Conference.
While they couldn’t play many games with each other, the trio certainly were a treat to watch when playing together. This was evident in the series against the Celtics when the big three looked dominant.
But all of it changed in the first game against the Bucks. In the very first minute of game 1 against the Bucks, Harden re-injured his hamstring. Despite ‘the Beard’ being out, the Nets looked dominant.
With the series finely poised at 2-1, the Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant led Nets were looking to take control of game 4. But all hell broke lose as Irving twisted his ankle and suffered a terrible sprain.
While Harden did return for game 5, he was banged up and the Nets had their hands full against a loaded Bucks. Despite Kevin Durant’s incredible heroics, it was simply not meant to be for the Nets as they crashed out in game 7.
Inexperienced Head Coach in Steve Nash
Prior to the start of the season, the Nets created a lot of noise with their head coach selection. Despite having some of the best coaches in Nate McMillan and Mike D’Antoni available, the Nets selected Suns’ legend Steve Nash as their head coach.
Pundits were skeptical and even superstar Kyrie Irving added fuel to the fire when he said that the team did not need a head coach. Nash certainly stepped to the plate. Despite his stars suffering from multiple injuries, the first time coach got the best out of his role players.
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Finishing with one of the best records, Nash seemed like the right fit for the Nets. Even against the Celtics, Nash and his coaching staff were able to contain the Celtics, and the team looked just fine.
But the inexperience was visible against the Bucks. Despite seeing his star players playing almost all the minutes in game 5, Nash did not rest Durant and Harden enough in game 6. This certainly cost the Nets in game 7 as Durant and Harden eventually couldn’t keep it together in OT. Another major move was the lack of rotation in the lineup.
While Blake Griffin did make a solid return in the Nets uniform, he certainly lacked the size to defend a player like Giannis. Nash and Co. could have deployed Nicholas Claxton or even DeAndre Jordan, but instead they let the ‘Greek Freak’ dominate the Nets in the paint. The job the former 2-time MVP has done is certainly commendable, but will he be more decisive next season and lead them to a championship?
Brooklyn Nets’ underperforming supporting cast
One of the biggest X-Factors for this Nets squad was there supporting cast. With players like Jeff Green, Joe Harris, Blake Griffin and Bruce Brown, the Nets looked set for success and the same was visible in the regular season as well.
With Irving, KD and Harden missing time, the supporting players stepped up big time and were pivotal in clinching the second seed in the East. Even mid-season acquisition Blake Griffin looked solid on the court.
But against the Bucks, many of the key players fizzled out. While Griffin, Brown and Green continued to be solid alongside the big three, the biggest shocker for the Nets was the form of Joe Harris. Shooting 47.5% from the three point line, Harris was one of the premier shooters in the regular season.
The 29-year-old certainly continued his electrifying form against the Celtics shooting 51.5% from the perimeter. But these numbers took a massive dip against the Bucks as he shot a below league average 32.7% from the three-point line.
With their premier shooter underperforming, and the lack of quality defenders in the squad, the Nets fell flat. Ahead of the off-season, GM Shawn Marks will be eager to add some more solid pieces around the big three.
Adding some better 3&D players might be their target this off season. If the Nets big three can stay healthy and have a slightly improved defense, they will be unstoppable. Can the Nets run it back and win the title next year? Let us know in the comments section down below.
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