The Brooklyn Nets’ season ended in disappointing fashion on Saturday night with a 115-111 Game 7 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Kevin Durant did all he could with 48 points, but James Harden could never find an offensive rhythm after returning from his hamstring injury and Kyrie Irving’s ankle injury kept him out yet again. These injuries turned this whole Big Three experiment into a what-if situation.

While this roster always looked great on paper, there were concerns all season with the Nets’ Big Three based on health questions. They only played eight regular-season games together and weren’t able to build chemistry due to so many different absences.

Of course, even despite those concerns, Brooklyn was the NBA title favorite coming into the playoffs because of the sheer amount of talent on the roster. We saw how Brooklyn could flourish with the three stars on the court in the first-round matchup against the Boston Celtics. The Nets put up over 123 points per game and looked unstoppable, with just a Jayson Tatum explosion keeping the series from being a sweep.

Brooklyn then looked dominant to start the series against Milwaukee, earning a pair of blowout victories even after Harden went down in the first minute. Durant and Irving set the tone for the dominance, and it seemed the Nets were going to cruise to the Eastern Conference Finals, even without Harden.

But Brooklyn botched Game 3 before Irving went down in Game 4, shifting all the momentum for the series. While Harden returned for Game 5 and Durant went supernova to take a 3-2 series lead, the Bucks turned the tables on the Nets to win the series.

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But given how close this series wound up, one has to wonder if Brooklyn would have won if Irving was healthy. The obvious answer is yes.

Kyrie had a rhythm early in the series that was difficult for Jrue Holiday and others to contain. As Durant was having issues against the physical defense of P.J. Tucker, Irving could have filled the void of the lack of scoring from other contributors, including Harden, Joe Harris and a non-existent bench. The Nets’ bench scored zero points in Game 7 as head coach Steve Nash tried to ride his starters.

Despite this, the Nets still almost won. Adding Irving to the mix surely would have meant a win. It would have been an almost impossible task for the Bucks to contain the Nets’ Big Three in a Game 7 on their home floor.

Injuries have certainly played a pivotal role in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Irving’s ankle injury was a huge loss that ended the Nets’ championship hunt. Although team’s mottos are always “next man up,” it is difficult for a role player to fill in the shoes of what Irving can bring to the table. If Irving had been in the lineup for Game 7, the Bucks would have left Barclays Center as the disappointed losers once again.

Instead, Milwaukee has taken over as the championship favorite, at least for now. Brooklyn must regroup and hope for better health in 2021-22.