- Kyrie Irving returned to action on Wednesday, scoring 37 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
- The Cavs, however, beat the Nets 147-135 in double overtime behind Colin Sexton’s career-high 42 points.
- Brooklyn is still the +140 betting favorite to win the Eastern Conference and is second in the 2021 championship oddsboard at +300.
The highly anticipated debut of the Brooklyn Nets’ Big Three happened on Wednesday night in Cleveland but while Steve Nash got plenty of stats from his three superstars, the Nets gave up 147 points in a double-overtime loss to the Cavs.
Kyrie Irving returned from a bizarre seven-game absence to score 37 points in 48 minutes of action. However, the Nets allowed Cleveland guard Collin Sexton to put up a career-high 42 points, including 15 in the second overtime period and mostly on Irving. The Result? The Nets lose by 12 points as 10.5 point betting favorites.
Brooklyn came all the way back from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 113-all on Irving’s follow-up with 1:10 left in the game. The Nets looked like they were in control of the first OT with Durant waxing hot. But Sexton hit a three-pointer, over Irving, with 1.2 seconds left to tie the game at 127 apiece in OT number 1. KD missed a contested three-pointer at the buzzer and then Sexton owned the second OT (and Kyrie Irving too).
Kyrie is Back
Kyrie is BACK ? pic.twitter.com/aSMkOvTUff
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 21, 2021
Irving returned to action for the first time since taking a leave of absence for “personal reasons”. The 28-year old guard last played on January 5th in a win over the Utah Jazz. He missed the Nets’ next seven games with Brooklyn going 5-2 without him. Irving attributed his absence to family and personal stuff” and said he needed a pause. On Wednesday, it was the Nets’ ascent that came to a pause. Brooklyn won four straight games prior to the loss to the Cavs.
Kyrie came off the gates on fire, scoring 17 points in the first half while making 8 out of his first 10 shots. He finished the game with 15 field goal makes from 28 attempts, taking three more shots than Brooklyn’s perceived no. 1 scoring option Kevin Durant, and twice as many field goal attempts by Harden, whom Brooklyn gave up Caris Levert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, and four first round picks to acquire.
Durant and Harden were an awesome twosome in the Beard’s first two games with the Nets, both wins. On Wednesday, Harden did not get to take a shot until early in the second quarter. The Beard did not score his first points until two free throws in the closing minute of the first half and he didn’t make his first field goal until a three-pointer early in the third period. Although Harden finished with a triple-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists, he didn’t look like the NBA’s three-time scoring champion with Irving rejoining the Nets.
Defense is a Problem
In the 2 games with James Harden, the Nets off. efficiency is 118.2 (up from 114.1 prior to Harden’s arrival). That figure would rank 1st in the NBA.
The Nets def. efficiency in 2 games with Harden is 114.4 (up from 108.9 prior to his arrival). That figure would rank t-29th pic.twitter.com/BR41uk10DX
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 20, 2021
With three elite scorers, the Brooklyn Nets have the most potent scoring trio in the league. As for the team, they rank third in the league in scoring at 119.3 points per game this season. However, Brooklyn has the 8th worst scoring defense in the NBA at 113.7 points per game allowed. And according to ESPN, the Nets defensive rating has deteriorated from 108.9 points allowed per 100 possessions to 114.4 since Harden arrived three games ago.
On Wednesday, the Nets allowed the Cavs to score 147 points. Props to Colin Sexton for scoring a career-high 42 points on 16-29 shooting. But Cleveland entered the game ranked 22nd in in three-point percentage at 34.3% and Brooklyn made them look like they had the Splash Brothers. Not only did the Nets concede 20 three-pointers against Cleveland, they allowed the Cavs to make 50% of their three-point attempts.
Brooklyn has conceded at least 115 points in five out of their last six games played and although they are 4-2 over that period, their two losses came in games where they couldn’t outscore and outshoot their opponent. The Cavs shot 51.4% from the floor and 50% from deep on Wednesday.
Just One Game
We were told we’d lose by 200. ? pic.twitter.com/8Wsr1BsnvW
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) January 21, 2021
Of course, Wednesday was just one game in a 72-game season. The Nets are still the +140 betting favorites to win the East at SportsBetting.ag. At +300, Brooklyn also still has the second-best odds to win the 20201 NBA title behind the L.A. Lakers. But their flaws, especially on defense, were too glaring to ignore.
Sure, this was just the first game for KD, Kyrie, and Harden together. They will jell better with more games under their belts. This team is a work-in-progress that will only get better as the season progresses. But we said the same thing about the Clippers last season. We know how their 2019-20 season ended.
Brooklyn’s offense looked splendid with three superstars playing together and taking turns in owning the game. But they can’t win games with three players. The Nets bench scored only 10 points against the Cavs while KD, Kyrie, and Harden combined for 96 out of their 135 points or 71.11% of their total scoring output. And yes, please don’t forget to tell Steve Nash that offense wins games but defense wins championships, if that’s what they want.