The Brooklyn Nets are officially out of the playoffs after losing a Game 7 for the ages at home against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks. This comes as a surprise to most of the NBA world despite the fact that the big three of James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant virtually failed to share the floor at any point during the series.
Many believed that by acquiring James Harden at the beginning of the season, Brooklyn had stacked the deck, making them clear title favorites given the amount of star power they had. Because of this, they had become the favorites to win this year’s NBA championship. NBA legend Charles Barkley has always thought otherwise.
“I never thought the Brooklyn Nets were going to win the championship. I said it even before this series.” – Charles Barkley, Inside the NBACharles Barkley, Inside the NBA
While it seemed like a rather convenient time for Chuck to say this, if you look back at earlier shows throughout the regular season, Barkley did not only say that Brooklyn would not win, but he even went as far as picking the team that just eliminated them would. Chuck has always been a big believer in the Bucks. It was exacerbated this year when the acquisitions of PJ Tucker and Jrue Holiday proved to be key in their first-round sweep of last year’s eastern conference champion Miami Heat. He then reiterated that after eliminating the Nets, the Bucks are now on their way to winning an NBA championship.
“The Bucks are going to win a world championship. They are going to beat either Philly or Atlanta and whoever is going to come out of the west.”Charles Barkley, Inside the NBA
As for the Nets, the rest of the crew thought that the team that had just been eliminated had a big chance of winning it all despite absences from some of their key guys. When asked about why Chuck thought it would never happen, he pointed to several issues that he saw never get resolved throughout the course of the playoffs.
“You can’t just go out there and try to outscore everybody. You can’t just come in with the three best guys and put it together. Brooklyn doesn’t play any defense; how can you win when you’re just putting all those little guys in?Charles Barkley, Inside the NBA
Chuck has a point here as Brooklyn was playing with Blake Griffin, Bruce Brown, and Kevin Durant as their primary interior defenders. While Brown is the only “little one” of the three, Griffin and Durant were never really heralded for their ability to guard physical players in the paint, and Milwaukee, along with the rest of the teams left in contention, sure have some physical interior players that could prove to be problematic for the Nets.
At the end of the day, Brooklyn played well enough despite their deficiencies to be within a basket or two of the Eastern Conference Finals, doing so while not having their full superstar roster available for most of the series. Perhaps Chuck is right in that you can’t just put a team together and expect to outscore opponents, and it seems like the Nets believed that as well.
Brooklyn held Milwaukee to nearly twenty points less in this series as opposed to the Bucks’ regular-season average, so it looks like they did put up a decent effort on the defensive end of the floor. Such is the challenge of putting together a Big 3. If one goes down, then your whole game plan has to change overnight, and while Brooklyn did a great job of doing so, it just was not enough to overcome a sometimes erratic but certainly battle-tested Milwaukee Bucks team.
Now, Milwaukee takes this momentum to the succeeding rounds in hopes of capturing a title. For the Nets, the focus is health and continuity. Their roster is designed to still outscore everybody. Still, given how dominant they were at times this year, there should be many talented defensive players and veterans looking to come along for the championship ride. If you’re Brooklyn, you cannot rest on your laurels, and just act like you would have won if Kyrie been available, but it’s time to reflect and get ready to become a better team on both ends of the floor for next year.
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