The Nets Aren’t Unbeatable, but It’s OK to Be Impressed

The recreation and the sequence had been by no means in critical doubt.

The depleted Boston Celtics maintained a sliver of hope of rising with a victory over the Nets on Tuesday by initially maintaining the rating shut in Game 5 of the best-of-seven sequence. But, in fast and devastating succession, the Nets crushed any ambition the Celtics had left. That’s what can occur when you’ve gotten stars like these:

Kevin Durant opened the salvos with a Three-point shot halfway via the fourth quarter.

Kyrie Irving buried one on the Nets’ following possession.

Next, James Harden adopted with one in all his personal.

In lower than a minute, an Eight-point Celtics deficit ballooned to 15 and a first-round sequence win for the Nets.

For the Nets, the sequence showcased their roster as envisioned months in the past, the celebrities aligning to alternate taking turns on the helm in piloting the Nets towards a championship.

Yes, that lineup had few alternatives to coalesce all through a rickety common season. The Nets entered the postseason with questions in regards to the chemistry of their three greatest gamers. They had performed simply eight video games collectively whereas restricted with accidents and coronavirus well being and security protocols.

Durant, Irving and Harden are basketball geniuses.

So what in the event that they didn’t play a lot collectively?

Throw one in all them the ball in isolation and watch the buckets pour in.

“We don’t want to take any of this for granted,” Irving mentioned after the Game 5 victory. “We know this doesn’t happen too often in our culture, in our history, where three of the best scorers to ever play the game and then you have a collection of guys that have done unbelievable things as well in this league, either coming off the bench or starting with us.”

The Nets confronted a shorthanded Celtics group. Boston entered with out the providers of the All-Star Jaylen Brown (wrist) and misplaced key elements because the sequence wore on in guard Kemba Walker (knee) and heart Robert Williams (ankle). But the Celtics nonetheless mustered a struggle and compelled the Nets to break a sweat in dispatching them.

“We’ve made strides in just a short period of time,” Irving mentioned.

Here are another key takeaways following the Nets’ first-round victory over Boston.

Kyrie Irving is prepared for the second.

Irving balled out towards the Celtics.

He, in fact, had skilled earlier postseason success. He hit the essential shot that propelled Cleveland to a championship over Golden State in 2016. But he didn’t have the next breakthrough after he was traded to Boston in 2017 — as Celtics followers will definitely attest — and spent a lot of the 2019-20 season, his first with the Nets, out whereas rehabbing an damage.

He is amongst mates now.

More than something, the Nets’ three stars sound like admirers of each other, appreciative of their particular person talent units.

Here’s Durant discussing Irving following the Boston sequence: “His mind is so different that stuff that he brings out is just unexpected — one legger, off the right leg, shooting off the glass, left-hand finishes, right-hand finishes, ball handling.”

“He’s a joy to watch and play with,” Durant added.

Irving had a spectacular common season. Against Boston, he was dynamic.

He punctuated his first-round efficiency by pouring in 39 factors in a Game four blowout win.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity that I had in Boston,” Irving mentioned, including that “there was a lot going on personally while I was there in Boston that people don’t know about.”

Now, he mentioned, he’s shifting on: “So just grateful that we have a chance to be together in the trenches, me and my teammates, and we just get to move on from this.”

James Harden had the Nets’ first playoff triple double for the reason that days of Jason Kidd.Credit…Adam Hunger/Associated Press

James Harden is prepared to sacrifice.

Harden, within the first-round sequence, confirmed he was prepared to use any of the instruments in his bag to win.

Often, he blows previous his major defender and surveys the remaining protection. He scores if the lane is open, but is just too pleased to move the ball if a straightforward scoring alternative presents itself.

In Game 5, Harden amassed a triple-double — 34 factors, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, turning into the primary Net to accomplish that within the playoffs since Jason Kidd in 2007.

“He comes into the gym every day and it’s just excitement to play basketball,” Durant mentioned. “With somebody who loves to play so much, the energy is just infectious and you can tell everybody was drawn to James since the day he got here and his presence was just key for us.”

Harden is the lone member of the Nets’ Big Three and not using a championship. This could also be his greatest shot.

Kevin Durant’s protection will probably be key.

Durant is a tremendous scorer. That is just not debatable.

But the Nets have that space coated. Durant’s protection could also be one in all their greatest weapons for his or her second-round sequence towards the Milwaukee Bucks.

Milwaukee breezed previous Miami in a first-round sweep, atoning for final yr’s playoff loss to the Heat and reinserting themselves as an Eastern Conference contender.

No one on this planet can absolutely include the offensive juggernaut that’s Durant, Harden and Irving. Milwaukee, at the very least, has the elements to probably gradual them down. Jrue Holiday, acquired in an low season commerce, is arguably the league’s prime perimeter defender. P.J. Tucker and Khris Middleton don’t thoughts mixing it up within the trenches. Giannis Antetokounmpo is final season’s defensive participant of the yr.

“He’s long, athletic,” Durant mentioned of Antetokounmpo. “He plays hard. He cares about his teammates. He cares about winning. Put that combination together, you make a tough player.”

But Durant could as effectively have been describing himself. Against Boston, he swooped in from the weakside to have the backs of defeated major defenders. His defensive acumen will most likely be a key if the Nets are to advance to the convention finals.

Second-round damage watch?

Both the Nets and the Bucks are largely wholesome but not at full energy. Milwaukee’s Donte DiVincenzo is out for the rest of the playoffs with an ankle damage.

Jeff Green, the Nets’ versatile defender, missed the final three video games of the Boston sequence with a strained plantar fascia.