brooklyn nets
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets cruise to a series win over the Celtics and unsurprisingly, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving lead the way.

Danny Small

The Brooklyn Nets entered the playoffs with questions about their defense, the chemistry on offense, and the experience of their head coach. They passed their first-round test with flying colors.

First things first, let’s give some credit to the Boston Celtics, and more specifically Jayson Tatum. They were ravaged by injury and still showed some fight in this series. Tatum averaged over 30 points per game and dropped 50 in Boston’s only win of the series, Game 3.

Tatum was clearly banged up, but he still pressed forward against this relentless Brooklyn squad. Although Boston won’t be happy with the final result of the 2020-21 season, they went down swinging and made the Nets work for it every night. James Harden talked about the possible benefits of losing after Game 3.

“As much obviously as we don’t want to lose, this is probably what’s good for us,” Harden said explained. “Especially that last game, Game 2, we played so well. This was a reminder that things aren’t going to be so easy. As much as we wanted to come in here and get a win tonight, now we gotta lock back in and watch some film and continue to get better. Still, this is our 10th game together.”

For what it’s worth, the Celtics were a good test for the Nets early in these playoffs, but it was never in doubt. The Game 3 loss served as a wake-up call even if Boston never really had a chance to win this series. The big three of Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving showed exactly why they can be so dangerous in the playoffs.

The lack of regular-season run together didn’t seem to slow anyone in a black jersey down. Durant, Harden, and Irving averaged 85.2 points per game in this first-round series. As a team, the Celtics only averaged 112.2 points, which means that Brooklyn’s role players only needed to provide a handful of points to push Brooklyn over the top.

Brooklyn seems to be naturally developing a pecking order that keeps everyone involved. Obviously, Durant, Irving, and Harden are going to be eating the lion’s share of shots, yet it doesn’t feel like anyone is becoming a ball stopper. Sure, the Nets play a lot of “my turn, your turn” on offense, but that’s only a problem when the guys taking turns are missing shots.

Harden’s ability to seamlessly transition from a pure passer to an absolute flamethrower of a scorer is an outlandish combination. Although he’s versatile, a Swiss army knife is not the right metaphor for what Harden is doing. He’s more like a big knife with an even bigger knife attached to it. Either way, you are getting cut.

While Harden is the primary facilitator, Durant and Irving are settling in as the primary “bucket getters.” Of course, Harden actually scored more than Irving in this series, but he did it on fewer shots.

But let’s not act like Irving was riding anyone’s coattails here. He dropped 41 points and hauled in a game-high 11 rebounds in Game 4.

The Nets are moving onto the Milwaukee Bucks, who swept the Miami Heat without breaking a sweat. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are going to be a brutal opponent, no doubt, but it’s still tough to see how any team slows down Durant, Harden, and Irving enough to win four games in seven tries.