I’m so disappointed in myself. Clearly, I have not been listening to enough Public Enemy. Once again, with the glacier-headed Titanic that is the Brooklyn Nets, I fell victim to believing the hype. Memo to self: cue up Fear of a Black Planet back for my one millionth listen.
Call me a sucker for Uncle Drew, call it a refusal to believe Kevin Durant would go out like that, chalk it up to me thinking these Nets gave a care but somehow, some way, I once again convinced myself these Brooklyn Nets could, or even would, upset the Boston Celtics. I thought this first-round series would be the most competitive of the lot. While the first three games have only been decided by a combined 14 points, that doesn’t tell the entire picture. This series has not been as close as the final scores indicate.
After dropping the first three contests in dramatic fashion, it’s clear I gave more credence to the players in the Nets locker room than they gave themselves. They are getting owned and embarrassed by a better coached, better constructed and more determined Celtics team. It is all over but the crying.
What we’ve been watching is a clinic on Boston’s end, combined with disappointment on the other, that will hopefully converge into this dreadful Brooklyn Roster being put out of its misery. As soon as three, now two, of the best basketball players on the planet, decided to convince everyone but themselves they could win a championship, like water torture, they proceeded to fall short of expectations in disastrous fashion.
I just can’t I believe fell for it again. Thinking they could contend with a roster as its currently comprised makes me feel like I know less about basketball. I mean, I saw it all season long, both before and after Harden. This roster had crater-sized holes not even Uncle Drew and Durantula could duct tape. Here I am running a website, convincing you I have some semblance of knowledge about basketball when that’s clearly not the case. Insinuating for one second that the Nets had any shot was foolish on my part. For that I apologize. At least the Lakers did us the favor of telling us up front they were horrible. These Nets almost made us believe. Shame on those of us who did. Clearly, we weren’t paying attention.
I used to make the argument that if you’re an NBA team that has the chance to land a superstar player, whether it’s by draft or free agency, you take that chance. You sell tickets, you have a marketable asset and most importantly, you have a chess piece around which you can build a roster. That’s where the Nets fell short. They landed the talent, they just forgot to give them help. Superstars are an important part of winning a title, but you need a balanced roster just as much as any big-name hype.
This is nothing new; it has always been the case. Larry, Magic and Michael didn’t win those titles on their own. Neither did Isiah, Timmy, Hakeem, Kobe or DWade. You can go as far back as Bill Russell or as recent as Steph. All those championship teams had balance, and chemistry, to go with their superstars. These Brooklyn Nets chi is so out of whack, you have them thinking Ben Simmons is the answer to their problems.
The Nets drop off after Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant is demonstrative. Their third best player is now playing for Philly. Meanwhile, Boston’s third best player won Defensive Player of the Year.
Last year’s champion Milwaukee Bucks, who Boston will play in the second round, have a league superstar but their roster is far more balanced than most other teams in the league. The Phoenix Suns have a roster and a coach that knows how to design a game plan and gets his players to execute said game plan. It’s why they succeed. If you don’t believe the two-seeded Memphis Grizzlies have team chemistry, you obviously haven’t watched them play ball.
These Nets have nothing of the sort. They have a head coach who could never get past the Conference Finals as a player and had no head coaching experience prior to this gig with the Nets. As grumpy as he is, you can’t tell me if Gregg Popovich coached this team, they don’t a) end up higher than a seven-seed and b) bow out to the Celtics without a fight.
One need to look no further than the final possession of Game One to find out what’s going on in this series. That final minute was a microcosm of all things Celtics-Nets. A poorly designed and executed, final offensive possession by Brooklyn led to a defensive rebound by Boston, sharp passing, and sound decision-making under pressure as they scored the game winner on a lay-up, thanks equally in part to greater Boston hustle and a lapse in Brooklyn’s defensive effort.
That, in a nutshell, is the difference between these two teams and ultimately, this series.
I once thought there was a world of difference between Brooklyn’s big two (Durant-Irving) and Boston’s big two (Tatum-Brown) and I was right. There is. Tatum and Brown are the more dynamic duo. Their stat lines tell you all you need to know.
In the first three games, Kevin Durant has shot 36% from the floor. He’s a career 50% shooter. He’s also been a turnover machine, committing a ghastly 17 in the first three games. His counterpart, Kyrie Irving went scorched earth in a Game One loss. Take that performance away and he’s shooting 30% from the floor. He’s a career 47% shooter.
Meanwhile, on the other end, Tatum is shooting 42%, which isn’t great, but he has 24 assists in three games and more importantly, one game-winning lay-up. Forever a picture of consistency, Jaylen Brown has gone 9-19, 9-18 and 9-16 in his three games for a cool 51% from the floor. He may be the most underrated player in the NBA.
From top to bottom, the Celtics are better and it’s not even close. Thankfully, we will soon watch them finish the job Milwaukee started last year, by shoveling the last piece of dirt on these Brooklyn Nets. They are not built for this and there is plenty of blame to go around, however, the organization has given us no indication those fingers will be pointed in the right direction.
That hard truth is that the Brooklyn Nets are a bad basketball team. It’s just a shame it took a while for some of us to figure that out.