The Nets’ shaky well being cost them a berth in the Eastern Conference finals. There’s little query about that. The Bucks confirmed coronary heart and guts and resilience, they acquired large video games after they wanted them from Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo. They held serve all three video games at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum; the Nets couldn’t fairly keep invincible at Barclays Center.
All true. All of it. And it doesn’t precisely take a Bob Beamon-esque leap of religion to say that a wholesome Kyrie Irving and a wholesome James Harden flanking a wholesome Kevin Durant would’ve found out a technique to win, at greatest, one of many video games in Wisconsin and, at the least, a decisive Game 7 in Brooklyn.
But did the accidents value the Nets their first NBA championship, which was what a lot of the post-Game 7 buzz was about? Steve Nash was requested if he may probably think about the experience of those 2020-21 Nets ending wanting elevating the Larry O’Brien Trophy and etching their names into the NBA historical past books.
“You could, actually,” Nash admitted. “It’s the NBA. Anything can happen.”
And they occurred, with multiplicity, to the Nets. Harden’s harm. Irving’s harm. The Bucks’ escape from Game 3, after they have been two possessions away from falling behind 0-3. Durant, finally, operating out of gas on the very finish of Game 7, going 0-for-6 in extra time after making that epic game-tying bomb on the finish of regulation.
Anything can occur?
You guess it may possibly.
And that’s why it’s arduous to say authoritatively that the Nets would have received the championship if all their components had stayed intact. They would nonetheless have been betting favorites. If the staff that emerged from the Celtics collection and got here out of the Bucks collection the identical means, it might have been an fascinating debate.
But if we’re going to dip a toe in that world, we have to immerse utterly.
And which means accepting a couple of different best-case situations:
Like Jamal Murray not blowing out his knee for Denver late within the common season. Like Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell not getting damage on the worst doable time for Utah, which completed 4 video games higher than the Nets within the far stronger convention. Like Boston having a wholesome Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown, which could have made that first-round collection a bit extra strenuous (and tenuous, so far as the Nets’ well being is involved).
Oh, no. We aren’t carried out but.
There have been the defending-champion Lakers, clearly compromised by the absence of Anthony Davis for one playoff recreation and the bodily limitations of each he and LeBron James. And Joel Embiid’s knee, which causes Sixers followers to cross themselves each time he jumps (and lands). And the unsure standing of each the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard (knee) and the Suns’ Chris Paul (COVID-19 protocol).
So, sure. Anything can occur.
The Nets are in a difficult spot as they ponder their method subsequent 12 months. Clearly now that the entire Big 3 have tough harm histories, they are going to be much more vigilant about correctly managing a common season subsequent 12 months that may develop by 10 video games. Folks will howl about the truth that they play solely half these video games collectively (if that), however the Nets’ total marketing strategy revolves round these three gamers.
Better or worse.
Better and worse.
And the thing is: there’s no assure. There was none this 12 months, and the 2 accidents that did them in towards the Bucks have been each fluky (the distinction between hurting a hamstring and it being completely nice is usually a thriller; Irving unluckily landed on Antetokounmpo’s foot) and nearly inevitable (you depend on older gamers, no matter star energy, you’re dancing a harmful dance).
You suspect will probably be an particularly lengthy summer season for Irving. He could often state that championships aren’t his end-all, however the reality is he’s now been disadvantaged on two separate events the chance to swell his ring assortment from one to 3. He fractured his kneecap in 2015 with Cleveland, and now this. Neither title was assured. But each occasions his season led to road garments.
The Nets will certainly run it again, and do what they’ll to strengthen a supporting forged that was largely ignored regardless of one nice recreation from Jeff Green and a few nice efforts by Blake Griffin and Bruce Brown. They’ll be subsequent 12 months what they have been this 12 months: essentially the most fascinating present within the NBA. Will that be sufficient to realize the one aim that issues?
Maybe. Maybe not. It’s the NBA. Anything can occur.