The Milwaukee Bucks’ next opponent in the NBA playoffs is a far cry from the Miami Heat who the Bucks swept in their playoff opening round series. The Nets are star-studded and have the home court advantage over Milwaukee, so game 1 of the best-of-seven game series tonight will be played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
How good are the Nets and their Big Three of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving? Real, real, real good.
The three superstars averaged 85.2 points in their opening series against Boston, the highest-scoring series for a trio in NBA history (minimum four games played), according to Elias Sports Bureau. They broke the record set by Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Rudy LaRusso, who averaged 84.2 points for the Lakers against the Pistons in the 1962 Western Division Finals.
Sam Anderson of the NY Times Magazine considers the Nets far better than real, real, real good. Try “(possibly) the greatest basketball team of all-time.” That high praise comes despite the fact Brooklyn has yet to win a single NBA title.
Anderson has written a massive puff feature on the Nets totaling more than 9,100 words that leaves readers, if they digest the entire article, wondering if the team walks on water. Overwhelming majority of the piece is focused on Kevin Durant, with scant attention paid to Harden and Irving. And Anderson engages in borderline hero worship.
Here are a few excerpts I’ve chosen to share from the mega-column:
Durant is a four-time scoring champion and a two-time finals M.V.P. and an 11-time All-Star and the protagonist of countless N.B.A. dramas and mini-scandals and memes — by any measure, one of the defining athletes of our time.
He has exactly the sort of transcendental galaxy brain that likes to rise up very high, and then slightly higher, to think about things like deep time and space rocks and the meaning of life. And the Brooklyn Nets are his galaxy-brain superteam.
Four years ago, the Brooklyn Nets were the worst team in the N.B.A. They lost 76 percent of the time and finished 33 games out of first place and were famous mainly for sparse crowds, blowout losses, bad signings and a long history of weird uniforms and dorky mascots. Today the Nets are arguably the most talented team in basketball history.
The two superstars (Durant and Irving) would plug right into Brooklyn’s talented young core. They would grow together toward a championship. If you squinted and tilted your head, it almost looked like an old-fashioned institutional superteam.
Kyrie Irving is short for the N.B.A., just 6-foot-2, and in a crowd of pro athletes he looks slight and vulnerable, like the little brother someone’s mom forced him to bring to the gym. But give him the ball and watch. Irving is probably the best dribbler in the league, and he can string together long sequences of moves that baffle whole groups of defenders — street-ball fakes and spins and jukes that shift and build, one by one, like incantations, until he is suddenly levitating through empty air to score.
Harden is a one-man basketball revolution. No defender in the league can guard him one on one. He is so shifty and tricky and clever and quick, so deceptively skilled, that his defenders frequently end up starring in humiliating GIFs. Harden’s most famous highlight is probably the time he juked someone so hard that the defender crumpled to the floor and Harden stood there, watching, for what felt like an hour, and then actually licked his lips before swishing the open shot.
The best of the three superstars, however, is Kevin Durant. Durant is nearly seven feet tall, and he shoots 30-footers as if they are layups, and if any player has ever looked more natural or graceful on a basketball court, I have never seen him. Durant’s keynote is ease. He moves with a pure, unforced economy of motion, a frictionless glide, that makes him look almost indifferent to the action around him.
Each of the Nets’ three superstars makes you shake your head and say “wow,” but in an entirely different way. For Irving, the wow means: I cannot believe he just pulled that move off. For Harden, it means: I cannot believe that that guy right there just did all of that to all those other guys, what is happening, are we all on some kind of prank show? For Durant, the wow is the same wow you say when you see the ocean for the first time or look into a volcano — it is the wow of the sublime, of witnessing a force so beautiful and grand and elegant and simple and natural and enduring that it makes you feel, by contrast, small and lumpy and clumsy and soft. And yet, you would never choose not to look at it if you could.
Since Adamson’s piece was written during the Nets-Celtics series there’s no mention of the Milwaukee Bucks. This is one long loving tribute to Brooklyn.
Not so fast writes Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Their (Bucks’) scoring ability has been a bit overshadowed.
At the conclusion of the regular season, it became official that the Bucks would once again lead the league in points per game – the third straight season to do so. But it’s not just that. It’s how they did it.
- The Bucks averaged a franchise-best 120.1 points per game, a total not reached since 1984-85. Brooklyn was the second-best scoring team, at 118.6 points per game.
- They scored 120 or more points a franchise-record 41 times, the most by an NBA team since the 1990-91 Denver Nuggets.
- They scored 130 points or more 15 times and 140 points or more four times.
Defense just might take a holiday in this series.
RELATED READING: Their Big 3 vs. our Big 3