The Nets have solved basketball, for now
Basketball is not a formula that waits to be resolved. Embedded in the sport there is something ineffable, artistic and unpredictable that will always prevent it from being a final strategy guaranteeing success. Teams will continually find new ways to win, but everything is provisional. Despite this, there have been teams that have seemed to have understood basketball once and for all, combining efficiency and beauty in unexpected ways. There were the 2014 Spurs whose clinical ball movement opened up possibilities for everyone on the squad and the Warriors teams for the next few years who took the same formula and added a few historic shooters for good. measured. The Brooklyn Nets are now taking a simpler approach.
The second-round game between the Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks probably looked like the best of the playoffs so far. But even without James Harden, who played less than a minute of Game 1 before leaving after worsening his hamstrings, the Nets devastated a Milwaukee team that seemed like a legitimate contender just a short time ago. week. On Monday night, Brooklyn put in the most dominant playoff performance, beating Milwaukee 125-86, and that score makes him look closer than he actually was. By the end of the first quarter, Irving and Durant had more points than the Bucks as a whole and things never got better for Milwaukee from there.
In those first two games against the Bucks, it looks like Brooklyn found a new way to solve the fundamental basketball problem – not by coming up with an inventive new strategy, but by reducing the game to its bare minimum. If there is the slightest hint of a cohesive or cohesive system that the Nets are using to outsmart their opponents, it’s too subtle for me to notice. Instead, they lift the ball and attack while performing an offense that doesn’t seem more complex than what my friends and I could employ at the local park. In theory this should be easy to stop, but so far they have made the tactics unnecessary.
The Nets present what could be the best line in NBA history. James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are three of the all-time top scorers, and while coaches may find easier ways for them to open up or access their favorite spots on the pitch, when everyone is rest fails, they may very well do on theirs. Think of James Harden isolating himself at the perimeter before stepping back and creating space for an open three or Kevin Durant shooting in the middle of the range – his height and length providing all the separation he needs – or Irving using a mixture of feints and hesitation before bursting out by his man en route to an open layup.
Both healthy Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are both incredibly talented, capable of doing almost anything on a basketball court, but for all of their other talents, both are at their best as scorers. While Harden may be the top scorer in raw and sometimes naïve efficiency, Durant is perhaps the most complete offensive weapon in NBA history. There is no place on the ground where he is anything but deadly. Then there’s Kyrie whose deft grips leave even the most capable defenders stumped as no formation or gang could prepare them for the burst of improvisation he shows. What defense can be put in place to prevent Kyrie Irving from reaching the basket? How could they know what he was going to do when he so seldom seems to have planned it himself? What to do when Kevin Durant stops and lets a flowing, economical sweater fly?
The Nets as a franchise may seem sterile – often seeming more of a market tested startup than a basketball team – but the team itself is a delight. There is no reason for their stars to mix well. All three have styles that are theoretically antithetical and require them to have the ball in their hands for long periods of time, but this obvious lack of chemistry is swallowed up entirely by their talent and how much they enjoy playing together. Monday night you could see the joy on Durant and Irving’s faces, almost as if they couldn’t believe how easy it was. And it’s not that they’ve never played for big teams before, but neither have ever found themselves in a situation where they can play so freely. Watching the Nets at their best, it’s like a rare chance to see them play basketball the way they should have when the game was still new to them, when they were finding out how good they could be. Instead of having to fit into a coach’s system – they’ve been asked to sand down their rough edges as everyone has to varying degrees in Golden State and Boston – they seem to have been given an almost absolute license. to trust their instincts and go From there. The joy is palpable.
The Bucks, and any other team that could face the Nets in the playoffs, will be outmatched regardless of Harden’s availability. It is one thing to have less starpower and to fight valiantly against an opponent despite the disparity in talent; it’s something different to be faced with a team that currently looks like the personification of inevitability. Opposing coaches may develop defensive plans to slow Brooklyn down, but it seems unlikely that any strategy could thwart something so overwhelming, elemental. It is possible that there will be a series of games when the Nets’ shots stop falling or a time when the absence of James Harden, if he is unable to recover from injury, will become too difficult to overcome. Right now, however, Brooklyn seems to be hitting its cap at the right time – not by doing anything new or remarkable, but simply having two of the best creators and cliché makers in sports history. Sometimes it’s that easy.