Nets Show Up Big in Game 1 Win Despite Losing Harden

A+

Final: 06/05/2021

W 115 107

The Nets beat the Bucks 115-107 in the first game of their Eastern Conference semifinals series. Brooklyn able to do this while missing one of its best players in James Harden, which is especially impressive in a series that many around the NBA believe could determine the East’s Finals representative after Joel Embiid’s recent injury.

Everything was smooth sailing — for about 43 seconds. That’s when the Nets called their first timeout and Harden went to the locker room.

The fear, uncertainty, and despair were all overwhelming among Nets fans. Their first true test of the season, and the Big Three didn’t even last a full minute.

The Bucks wasted no time taking advantage of Harden’s absence as they jumped out to an 8-1 lead in offensive rebounds. Harden has been one of the best rebounding guards this season, averaging 7.9 per game. Even with these extra possessions, the Nets were able to keep the game close through superior three-point shooting.

 

Brooklyn shot 37.5% percent from beyond the arc compared to just 20% for Milwaukee. Kyrie Irving helped lead the second unit and their impeccable ball movement made it look like Harden never left.

 

Irving played 23 of the 24 minutes in the first half. His offensive prowess combined with the tenacious defense (like this hustle play from Blake Griffin!) gave the Nets a small lead going into halftime.

Coming out of the break, there was a noticeable increase in referee whistle sightings. Those interruptions did not impact Kevin Durant as he began to heat up from midrange and widen the gap for Brooklyn. The Nets also entered the fourth quarter with a 14-point lead thanks to some key contributions from the bench.

 

The fourth quarter was largely smooth sailing, helped by Brooklyn’s roster doing a great job of guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo without fouling throughout the contest. Despite losing Harden, the Nets outworked the Bucks in the first game of this series.

This team doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit.” Bring on Game 2.

Kevin Durant

A

The stats: 29 PTS, 12-25 FG, 1-4 3PT, 4-4 FT, 10 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 2 BLK, 3 TO, 40 MIN

Kevin Durant is the rock that this squad so desperately needed on Saturday.

 

Tens of thousands of words, if not more, have been dedicated to Durant’s shot-making abilities. They are more crucial now than ever with Harden missing from the lineup. It’s a good thing for the Nets that their primary superstar is one of the most consistent of all time under the playoff lights.

James Harden

INC

The stats: 0 PTS, 1 REB, 1 MIN

James Harden’s night was over nearly as soon as it began. 

Harden has been arguably the best player on the Nets this year. The road to a title is still immensely more difficult without him. Here’s hoping for a quick recovery. 

Kyrie Irving

A

The stats: 25 PTS, 11-26 FG, 3-11 3PT, 5 REB, 8 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 45 MIN

Kyrie Irving had big shoes to fill after Harden went down. He laced them up and ran with the punches.

 

It was especially impressive how well Irving performed leading the second unit, something that had been the responsibility of No. 13 for the majority of the season. The margin for error is slim against a team as talented as the Bucks, but Kyrie is up for the challenge.

Blake Griffin

A+

The stats: 18 PTS, 7-13 FG, 4-9 3PT, 14 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 3 TO, 35 MIN

This was some of the best basketball that Blake Griffin has played in years.

 

Offensively, Saturday was Blake’s highest point total so far this postseason. He hit FOUR (!) threes. Even better, he did a tremendous job defending Giannis without fouling (while he did foul out, it was near the end of the fourth quarter when the victory was already practically secured). Bravo, Blake. 

Joe Harris

A

The stats: 19 PTS, 7-11 FG, 5-9 3PT, 2 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 TO, 34 MIN

Joe Harris continues to be the unsung hero of this superteam.

 

Harris has been one of the most consistent players for the Nets for years, and his contract is worth its weight in gold so far in these playoffs. His consistency is going to be key if the team hopes to survive Harden’s (presumed) absence.

Mike James

A+

The stats: 12 PTS, 5-11 FG, 2-4 3PT, 7 REB, 3 AST, 30 MIN

After only putting up four points and one rebound in the entire series against the Celtics, Mike James made his presence known against the Bucks.

When Steve Nash went deep into the bench looking to replace Harden’s lost production, James answered the call. He played 30 minutes, more than three times his total minutes against Boston. If he can consistently produce like this, then Brooklyn has more reason to keep its championship hopes alive still. 

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