It’s not often that the Nets’ “Big 3” find themselves on the bench. But there they were in the final five minutes of Wednesday night’s win over the Chicago Bulls.
James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving watched as the final minutes ticked away and the Nets handily defeated the Chicago Bulls in a game that everyone had circled on their calendar. The dominant win was a reminder to the rest of the league just how deadly the Nets can be with their three stars on the court.
That was punctuated by just how comfortable head coach Steve Nash was allowing the three to take a breather at the end of the game, and the win firmly in hand.
“It’s one of the best feelings, honestly,” Harden said with a chuckle after the game. “I mean you either did something right or did something wrong. Tonight was the case of doing something right, but I think we were just engaged. We know just coming off that game in Portland that we had to bounce back and redeem ourself and we did that in a very good fashion.”
Wednesday’s win underscored what just about everyone had known already. The Nets are much better with Irving than they are without him.
The Nets have gone 15-3 win the “Big 3” in the lineup since Harden was acquired from Houston last season. Coincidentally by the time the win over the Bulls ended on the East Coast, it was Jan. 13 which was the day trade rumors came to a head that Harden was bound for Brooklyn.
The trio has had limited time together but the confidence level has been there every time they’re on the court together. There was a noticeable buzz from not just Durant, Irving, and Harden, but from everyone on the roster.
And they’ve never doubted just how good they can be.
“We’ve felt like that since day one,” Irving said. “Even when we started in training camp. Just having the guys we have on our team coupled with some great experience and then also some young guys that are just really really hungry to get out on the floor. We need that kind of stay-ready group to keep us accountable. Now that I’ve been able to be on the road with the guys for a few days and just really get a good sense of where we are.”
Irving admitted that he’s still playing catchup with the rest of his teammates. He played 25 minutes against the Bulls and had 9 points on 4-for-10 shooting.
Even with Irving still getting back into his rhythm and Durant and Harden building back up the “Big Three’s” chemistry, the Nets were able to pull off their most impressive win yet.
“We’re that good. Like we have a chance to be that good,” Harden said. “We just haven’t had enough of it. I think last year we probably had 15 games, maybe, together. A little more, a little less, and this year only two. We haven’t had a real bulk of a season. y’all can consistently see how great we can be. And we’re working on that. We need to get to that point.
“It felt good tonight just to be able to, on both ends of the ball, be locked in on the same page. Then offensively, sharing the basketball and making each other better.”
For now the “Big 3” won’t be back together until Monday, when the Nets kick off a four-game road trip in Cleveland. Irving cannot play in any Nets games within the five boroughs or in Toronto due to his current unvaccinated status.