For these of us sufficiently old to recollect, watching the 2021 Brooklyn Nets’ offense may be like watching the 1985 Chicago Bears’ protection. You are typically left questioning how a unit that dominant may ever lose a recreation.
The Nets have diminished the Milwaukee Bucks to an amateur-hour operation, with the reigning two-time league MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, shrinking by the possession. Struggling superstars can generally discover a sanctuary on the free-throw line. For Antetokounmpo, with Nets followers counting off the clock as his excruciatingly painful routine blows previous the authorized 10-second restrict, the road appears more like a torture chamber.
Milwaukee swept the Miami Heat within the first spherical even if Miami was a finalist final 12 months with a well-established tradition of growth and accountability designed to stop issues like playoff sweeps. “This aint the bubble,” the Bucks’ official Twitter account posted after the punctuating Game 4, a cute dig at Miami’s breathless bubble run in 2020.
Cute till Milwaukee’s personal bubble burst in Brooklyn.
The Bucks discovered the exhausting manner what the remainder of the NBA has found: It’s getting awfully tough to image anybody apart from the Nets elevating the Larry O’Brien Trophy subsequent month. Milwaukee was alleged to be by itself championship-or-else mission this 12 months after current playoff failures, together with final 12 months’s five-game loss to the Heat. And but Brooklyn has imposed its will forcefully sufficient to make the Bucks seem like counterfeit items, once more, whereas James Harden sits and watches and saves his injured proper hamstring for more worthy foes.
Even with out Harden on the ground, the Nets are ridiculously explosive. Kevin Durant is all the way back to being his pre-injury self, capturing over Antetokounmpo, driving previous him, and all however taunting him with that double crossover dribble that will break 4 ankles for those who had 4. Kyrie Irving is reminding individuals why the Hall of Fame playmaker who has watched all of them, 92-year-old Bob Cousy, ranks him among the many 5 most gifted level guards he’s ever seen.
Brooklyn additionally has its position gamers rolling, their performances clearly elevated by the firepower round them. Blake Griffin, 32, is high-flying like Blake Griffin, 24, and the Bruce Browns and Landry Shamets are opportunistic sufficient to search out the crevices within the recreation that their hybrid skills can fill. And then there’s Joe Harris. The Bucks and everybody else understand he’s more than value masking. The drawback is, opponents who want to offer assistance on the Nets’ stars don’t have sufficient our bodies left over to shut exhausting on Harris, who has made 25 of his 49 3-point makes an attempt (51 p.c) in Brooklyn’s seven playoff video games after main the league in 3-point proportion through the common season, when he shot 47.5 p.c.
The Nets have been 0-2 in opposition to the Bucks final month with out Harden, and are now 2-0 in opposition to the Bucks with out him in the one standings that matter — the postseason standings. Yes, as a mandatory disclaimer, it’s potential that the Freak rediscovers himself in Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4, and that the fired-up Bucks — uninterested in their authenticity being questioned — draw on their dwelling crowd’s power to even the collection and make the Nets sweat once they take the Barclays Center courtroom for Game 5.
But that’s all it’s — a mandatory disclaimer, a warning begging to be ignored. Assuming the Nets eliminate Milwaukee, a fast overview of the event reveals no formidable impediment separating them from an NBA title, and from a debate over how the town ought to have fun the tip of a near-half-century basketball drought made potential by an outerborough champ.
If the Sixers survive the Hawks, their issues about Joel Embiid’s knee will seemingly outweigh the Nets’ issues about Harden’s hamstring. The Hawks don’t have the weapons to do to the Nets what they did to the Knicks. Out West, LeBron’s Lakers successfully took the 12 months off. The Jazz? Clippers? Suns? Nuggets? All excellent, well-coached groups, however no juggernauts within the bunch. Those 4 franchises have a mixed zero NBA titles to their names; just one, the Clippers, have a major star who has gained any titles elsewhere (Kawhi Leonard, 2). The Nets’ solely trophies are the pair that Julius Erving gained of their Seventies ABA days, however they’ve two major stars who’ve gained NBA championships in Durant (2) and Irving (1).
What does all of it imply? The Nets have essentially the most dynamic solid of offensive gamers, an enhancing protection, and an opportunity to summon Harden from the bullpen within the close to future. They look like a secure wager to win the entire thing, and it’s been a very long time since anybody mentioned that a couple of basketball group from any a part of the large metropolis.