As the juggernaut Brooklyn Nets hurl themselves into Round 2 of the NBA Playoffs, we may be reminded of that tantalizing physics paradox of the irresistible force and the immovable object.
In this case, the irresistible force is the Nets’ “wow” trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, who together averaged 85.2 points in Brooklyn’s 4-games-to-1 previous-round destruction of the Boston Celtics. Overall, the Nets (No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference) averaged 123.4 points in the five playoff games.
Bucks In The Way
Standing stoutly between the Nets and the next step toward the NBA Finals are the Milwaukee Bucks (No. 3 seed from the East). The Bucks, the immovable object in this analogy, dispatched the Miami Heat in four straight and in the process surrendered an average of just 98 points a game.
In the classic offense-defense matchup, the odds makers like the offense. The Nets are listed as about a -200 sports betting favorite to win the series on DraftKings and FanDuel, which begins Saturday with Brooklyn at home.
So far, the Nets have put to rest any concerns about chemistry or lack thereof among their three superstars who played just eight games together in the regular season.
Brooklyn has won nine of its last 10 games (regular and postseason). Interestingly, before that run, the Nets did lose four in a row and two were to the Bucks — but New York bettors know that Harden didn’t play in those early-May games that were in Milwaukee.
How They Match Up
The contrast between the Nets and Bucks is stark. While Brooklyn has assembled a powerful 1-2-3 punch, Milwaukee’s offense is far more distributed while including its own superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who averaged just over 28 points, 11 rebounds and almost six assists during the regular season.The big guy match-up between Durant (6-foot-10) and Antetokounmpo (6-11, and former NBA defensive player of the year) is obvious. Similarly, there seems to be some logic that there will be a quick little guy pairing with Brooklyn’s Irving (6-2) drawing the Bucks’ Jrue Holiday (6-3).
That leaves Harden as perhaps the key to the whole series and his situation carries substantial drama. Early in the season, the Nets acquired Harden in a huge three-way trade with primarily Houston (Harden’s longtime former team) plus Cleveland, which cost Brooklyn three first-round draft picks and other players and draft swaps.
Lately, the owner of the most recognizable beard in sports has been on a tear. Against Boston, Harden averaged 55.6% from the field and 47.3% from 3-point range for 27.8 points a game. And then there were 10.8 assists per game.
Finding an answer for him will be Milwaukee’s biggest headache. And should Harden continue to play throughout the playoffs as he did against the Celtics, the Nets’ the-future-is-now gambit might actually pay off.