Nets Notes: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden Open Playoffs With Big Numbers
All three average at least 24.0 points vs. Celtics to power Brooklyn
In their first week back together, leave it to Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving to accomplish something done only once before in NBA history.
It was all the way back in 1984 that the Denver Nuggets, a run-and-gun outfit that would fit right in with today’s NBA, had three players — Kiki Vandeweghe, Alex English, and Dan Issel — all average at least 24.0 points in their five-game playoff series loss to the Utah Jazz.
That Durant, Harden, and Irving did the same to match that feat while leading Brooklyn’s five-game dispatching of the Boston Celtics over the last 10 days may not even be the most impressive thing about the offensive display they powered up.
“It's exciting,” said Durant. “First off it's exciting every time I get to step out on the court and do something that I've been doing my whole life. But to play against the best players in the world, on this stage, this platform, so many people watching with guys that I came up with in the league, James, Kyrie, it's definitely cool. But I'm not trying to sit back and reflect on how nice it is to play with those guys. I'm trying to get out there and get work done and worry about how we're going to get better each and every day. It is fun playing with two guys that pretty much do everything on the basketball court.”
Brooklyn averaged 123.4 points per game and put up 128.0 points per 100 possessions against Boston, figures that lead the NBA through the playoffs so far. In the 130 minutes the three of them played together in the series, the Nets had an offensive rating of 136.9 points per 100 possessions.
Those 130 minutes are not a far distance from the total of 202 that Durant, Harden, and Irving played together during the regular season. With Harden returning to action in the final week of the regular season, the bullseye focus for the first round of the playoffs was on the connectivity and cohesion that Nets head coach Steve Nash has preached all season long.
How’s it going so far?
“I think that they are getting further along,” said Nash. “Every time out whether it's good or bad performance whether it's cohesive or not I think it leads itself to more growth, more understanding, more cohesion. Some of it is they're just terrific players and able to take over the game in stretches individually. A little bit of both and we're going to need both if we're to continue to get better."
In the five-game series, Harden averaged 27.8 points, 10.6 assists, and 7.2 rebounds on 55.6/47.5/90.9 shooting splits from the field, 3-point line, and free throw line. In the 141-126 Game 4 win in which Brooklyn set a playoff franchise scoring record while putting up an offensive rating of 143.9 points per 100 possessions, Harden had a personal playoff career high of 18 assists.
“He's a willing passer, he's looking to pass, he's looking to get guys shots,” said Durant. “His energy, he comes into the gym every day and there's just excitement to play basketball. Somebody that loves to play so much that their energy is infectious. You could tell everybody was drawn to James from the day he got here and his presence has been key for us.”
Irving had 39 points and 11 rebounds in Game 4 as the Nets went up 3-1 to take full control of the series, making 6-of-12 3-pointers. He averaged 24.8 points for the series and continued to push the boundaries of physics with his crossovers and twisting finishes.
“Kyrie in particular, his brain, his mind is so different the stuff that he brings out is unexpected,” said Durant. “One-legger, off the right, shooting off the glass, left hand finished, right hand finishes ball-handling I mean, I don't even know what you can get to deep into your brain as a player to be like, ‘alright I want to try this (stuff).’ Something I appreciate as an artist like that. He's a joy to watch and play with.”
And Durant? Just 32.6 points per game — fourth in the league in playoff scoring so far — on outrageous 54.6/50.0/91.5 shooting splits.
Put the regular season and playoffs together and the Nets are 10-3 in the 13 games Irving, Harden, and Durant have played together. They’re also just starting.
“Obviously, there’s some things we’ve got to work on,” said Harden. “Obviously, communication and just where guys like the ball. It has to come fairly quick. For me, I pretty much know, but I think communication goes a long way. As long as we’re aggressive and we kind of communicate throughout the course and our coaches do a great job of putting us in positions, that’s all that matters. I think if the rest are on the same page and playing well, we can communicate with the rest of the guys where to be on both ends of the ball, I’ll take our chances against anybody.”
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