“Not to, like, brag or anything, but I’m, like, really, really good at this game.” That's how James Harden explained the great performance he had in his first game back since April 5th. Coming off the bench for the first time since Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals between Oklahoma City and Miami 9 years ago and Harden did quite good - 18 points, 11 assists, and 7 rebounds in 26 minutes on the court.
Still, that doesn't mean we saw the entire Nets squad on the court - Kyrie Irving did not play because of a facial contusion suffered the night before. When Kevin Durant joined the Warriors, the biggest advantage they got was the luxury of one of their superstars missing time and still having a few Hall of Famers on the court. The same goes for the Nets.
I'll be concerned until their season ends. Injuries have been something that's hampered this team. The one good thing about the Nets is even if they don't have all three - if at least two of their Big 3 play, they're always elite and capable of beating anybody.
Marc Spears, The Jump
But it does matter which star isn't on the court. With Harden on the court, the Nets have the best winning percentage in the NBA. Without Harden, they are one game over .500. The Beard will use the remaining few games of the regular season to get the rust off after missing a month of basketball, but priority no.1 is to have him healthy when the Playoffs start. Despite the fact all three of their superstars missed significant time to injuries and whatever Kyrie feels like at that time (don't forget, he's an Artist), Matt Barnes said the East is theirs to lose. Kendrick Perkins vehemently disagreed.
I disagree with you. You're still my brother, but I'm picking Philly to come out of the East. Let me tell you why. We all know with the Big 3 on the court, they're gonna score points. I'm worried about the others - Joe Harris, Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan, Claxton. Worryin' about rotations. Steve Nash has to work out which lineups work defensively.
Kendrick Perkins, The Jump
Perk pointed out the Eastern Conference isn't weak. It's no West, but you still have Philly, Milwaukee, and the up-and-coming Heat, who can all play great basketball on both sides of the court. And that's where we come to one of the oldest NBA rules - offense wins games, defense wins championships. Even in their offensive peak, the Warriors were always one of the top defensive teams in the NBA. The same goes for the Jordan Bulls. The Nets are currently the 23rd best defense in the NBA.
Philly is deep from top to bottom, so is the Milwaukee Bucks. We just finished talking about the Miami Heat. We have these teams that are not afraid of the Brooklyn Nets, and the Nets can't outscore everyone. At the end of the day, you're gonna have to buckle up and get stops. It's in history.
Kendrick Perkins, The Jump
Matt Barnes agreed with Perk but pointed out Harden and Kyrie played better individual defense than expected at times, so there may be hope for the Nets defense in the Playoffs. However, I'm not sure I'd agree with Barnes. Defense is as much about teamwork as it is about effort. You need time and consistent commitment to be ready for the Playoffs defensively. Even if they up in more effort, that is far from a top 10 defense ready to get stops in the Playoffs.
But, Charles Barkley was right about jump shooting teams not being able to win the Larry O' until the Warriors showed up. If there was ever a team designed to disprove the "defense wins championship" motto, it's the 20/21 Brooklyn Nets. If those three guys are healthy, the Nets can win it all.