One of the most talked-about Big 3s in NBA history made its debut on Wednesday, as the Brooklyn Nets trifecta of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden finally shared the floor as teammates for the first time. However, their first outing did not go as planned, as the Cleveland Cavaliers spoiled their party, coming out with a 147-135 win in a classic double-overtime thriller.
In a night where three of the most electrifying scorers of this generation played under one uniform, it was Cavs’ young guard Collin Sexton who stole the show with a career-high 42 points. The Young Bull torched the Nets with 22 points in the two extra periods alone and 20 straight markers at one point.
As expected, the Nets’ shiny new Big 3 got blasted online after that disappointing turnout. Sure, they failed to get the W, but let’s not bring out the torches and pitchforks right away.
It’s way too early in the season, and these three Nets superstars are way too good not to figure things out. Still, first impressions do last. While the trio played brilliant basketball in their first official team-up, their inability to win against a subpar Cavs team does raise some eyebrows.
Let’s take a closer look at four lessons we learned from the Nets’ Big 3 debut, both the good and the bad.
The Good — Durant, Irving, and Harden can co-exist for Nets
The biggest question in everyone’s minds was how three of the most ball-dominant superstars in the league can effectively team up with just one ball. Other Big 3’s of the past often had to make sacrifices just to make things work, especially on offense. This was deemed as a problem for the Nets early on considering Irving and Harden (with the exception of Durant, of course), haven’t exactly been described as team players over the course of their careers.
Against the Cavs, the three perennial All-Stars still got their touches and put up their usual big numbers. Durant, Irving, and Harden combined for 96 of Brooklyn’s 135-point output. Durant scored a team-high 38 points on 12-of-25 shooting from the field and three made threes, along with 12 boards, eight assists, four blocks, and one steal.
However, it was Irving who took the most shots, making 15 of his 28 attempts, en-route to 37 points, three assists, two rebounds, three blocks, and one steal.
Considering he is the new kid on the block, The Beard deferred early to his two superstar teammates and acted as the primary facilitator for the Nets. He finished with a game-high 12 assists and recorded his second triple-double in a Nets jersey, adding 21 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bad — We still have no idea who takes the final shot for Nets
Last night’s extremely tight-contest offered several opportunities for the Nets superstars to figure out this dilemma. To their credit, the star-studded trio actually took turns and each tried to take the clutch shots versus the Cavs. Unfortunately, none of them succeeded and they got ousted by Sexton’s own heroics for his team.
Harden tried to make a statement with his signature step-back 3-pointer in the critical juncture of regulation but botched the attempt. Irving tried to make a quick move to the cup with 10 seconds left for the Nets but got called for charging (which was later overturned). Durant also tried to seal the win in the first overtime but also fell short.
No doubt all three are capable of bailing the Nets out considering they each have a wide-array of game-winners in their resumes already. This is actually a terrifying situation for opposing defenses considering they will have to contain three supremely-gifted scorers in do-or-die situations.
Of course, the Nets Big 3 can always just go to whoever has the hot hand at the moment. But for now, rookie head coach Steve Nash must sort this one out quickly.
The Good — The Big 3 all looked healthy and in shape
When a team as talented as this one gets formed, sometimes the only thing that can stop them from winning is themselves. For the Nets trio, it’s the injury bug or whatever other reason that will cost them to get sidelined.
Again, it’s just one game, but it’s clearly a great sign for Nets fans to see their three best players all look their best against the Cavs. There were concerns that Irving might have to shake off some rust after missing the last seven games due to his self-imposed hiatus due to personal reasons. Uncle Drew looked as shifty as ever against the Cavs and quickly put those doubts to rest.
Harden, meanwhile, has visibly packed on some pounds since the beginning of the season and there were questions about what time of shape he is actually in. Those extra kilos doesn’t seem to faze him as much, and it looks like he actually enjoys playing basketball again after getting his wish to be moved to the Nets.
But the greatest sign for the Nets is that Durant is back to his pre-injury self after fully recovering from that scary Achilles tear. After logging in a season-high 50 minutes against the Cavs, the two-time NBA champion and Finals MVP said he feels like he could have played 20 minutes more.
The Bad — The Nets’ bench still needs a lot of work
While we all expect the bulk of the Nets points to come from their three-headed monster, this team will have a tough time if they won’t have dependable guys in that second unit.
Granted that Brooklyn’s roster was left depleted from that massive Harden blockbuster, the Nets front office must find a way to surround their superstars with some ample help. Spencer Dinwiddie could have been the perfect sparkplug off the bench, but he’s done for the season.
Against the Cavs, the Nets’ bench put up a measly 10-point outing, with six coming from Joe Harris and four from rookie Reggie Perry. That certainly won’t cut it moving forward.
The Nets’ limited cap room hinders their chances of trading for vets before the deadline, but they can always find some gems in the market to fill those gaps.