Brooklyn Nets: Takeaways From a Crushing Game 7 Loss to Bucks
Well, it all came down to one game. The stage was set. Nets. Bucks. Game Seven at Barclay’s Center to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The energy was electric in the arena and it was a back and forth game throughout. Kevin Durant started off in typical KD fashion, connecting on a few shots to excite the crowd. Joe Harris, the black sheep of the Nets the past few games, even hit his first three-point attempt. James Harden looked to be the most aggressive he’s been while nursing that hamstring injury by pushing the envelope and getting to the free-throw line. The Nets finally had a good start to a game and things seemed to be looking up.
Unlike Game Six, Brookly received some much-needed energy and help from some of its role guys. But throughout the game, every time Brooklyn looked to build some momentum, there were the Bucks with a counter. PJ Tucker and Brook Lopez had some important corner threes and were a force on the glass. Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, two guys who were ghosts in the first half, came alive in the fourth quarter delivering on some huge buckets down the stretch for Milwaukee. Giannis, who missed his first few free throws including an airball early in the game, righted the ship and looked every bit the part of a two-time MVP.
As the game neared completion, it was clear it would come down to a final possession or two. And wouldn’t you know it, KD hit a shot (at the time) for the ages with one second left in regulation forcing the game to overtime. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, their offense stalled in the extra period, mustering a measly two points. A KD shot in the final seconds fell well short as the Bucks handed Brooklyn a heartbreaking Game Seven loss at home.
With a lot to digest and pull from, here are three of the main takeaways from a truly devastating 115-111 defeat
Kevin Durant. Period
There isn’t much to say really. Kevin Durant will go down as one of the greatest people to ever put that round sphere in a 10-foot hoop. With a hobbled James Harden and Kyrie out since Game Four, Durant put the Nets on his back in a way we only see from the greats. Game Seven was no exception as Durant willed Brooklyn all game with tough bucket after tough bucket. By halftime, Durant led all scorers with 20 points and looked well on his way to another master class performance. The second half was no different and Durant’s And-1 dunk midway through the fourth quarter looked to be the play of the game for him. However, the KD magic was just beginning.
When all hope seemed lost and Brooklyn down to what appeared to be their final possession, Durant gave Nets fans and the internet another OMG moment. With PJ Tucker draped all over him, Durant hit a fadeaway shot for the ages with one second left.
Perhaps if Durant was a half shoe size smaller the Nets would be on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Alas, that was not the case. Durant himself even said in his postgame interview that his “big ass feet” cost them the game. That he had seen the screenshot and saw just how close he was to ending the Bucks’ season.
Durant had a chance in overtime to repeat his heroics and took an almost identical fadeaway from around the three-point line. However, it was clear fatigue was definitely a factor as KD just couldn’t get the lift under his shot and hoisted up an airball with just under a second left. He’d go on to finish with 48 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. His 48 points are the most points scored in a Game 7 per ESPN Stats and Info.
All things considered, what Durant did in this series should be praised. Forget the “ooh LeBron did this” or other dumb comparisons. NBA fans were treated to an absolute spectacle from Durant this series. The Nets nor their fans couldn’t have asked for a better effort.
One of the glaring problems the Nets faced in their Game Six defeat was a lack of contributions from their role guys. It’s unfair to lump Bruce Brown into that since he only played five minutes. However, Game Seven saw Blake Griffin and Bruce Brown contribute in a way that was a very welcome sight. All game long Bruce and Blake kept the energy up for the Nets. Whether it was hitting a momentum-building bucket or chasing after loose balls, these guys brought their lunch pails. A great example of this could be seen in the 2nd quarter when Brown chased a rebound that looked to be heading out of bounds and saved it thus leading to a Blake Griffin three-pointer.
What really stood out from both players was their play on the defensive end. When matched up against Khris Middleton, Brown made it extremely difficult for him to operate and was a big reason why Middleton shot 2 for 11 in the first half. Griffin also did his best to make Giannis work for his buckets especially inside. It would’ve been nice if Brooklyn had just one more role guy step up but credit is definitely due to a duo that has without a doubt captured the hearts of many a Nets fan.
Say it ain’t so Joe!!
As much as it pains to write this, a huge factor in this game and the series, in general, was the performance of a one Joe Harris. The guy that Nets fans would die for just two weeks ago was one of the major reasons why Brooklyn isn’t advancing. Let’s be clear. He is not the only factor in this series loss. There were other things at play. However, when you’re the league-leading three-point shooter throughout the regular season, expectations are high for you to perform. Unfortunately for Joe, it was basically a déjà vu scenario from the 2019 playoffs.
At the start of the game, it appeared this could be a bounce-back game for him as he connected on his first three-point attempt. However, the momentum from that three could not be sustained as Harris would go on to shoot 3 for 10 from distance. None of his misses were bigger however than a wide-open missed three from the wing with just under a minute left in overtime. The stage and moment were set for Harris to have his “Steve Kerr” moment and he came up small.
Other stand out factors for the Nets:
James Harden – A ton of credit has to go to Harden who fought through a hamstring injury since Game Five. It was revealed following Game Seven that he was playing through a Grade Two Hamstring strain. As mentioned earlier Harden looked to be aggressive early on and found his way to the foul line often. In the first half, he accumulated eight free throw attempts. However, it was still clear that he was nowhere near 100 percent. The burst Nets fans were used to seeing him have coming off screens was not there. There was also barely any lift on a majority of his three-point attempts, many of which could have turned the tide in the game if they went in. Harden also had a few crucial turnovers in the game which killed the momentum. Obviously, you credit James for being out there, and perhaps if he was a little healthier things may have turned out different.
Offensive Rebounds – Everyone knows rebounding plays a large role in determining the outcome of a game. Offensive rebounds especially can turn the tide of a quarter or a half. Getting that extra possession for your team can prove to be a huge swing in momentum. And that was rightly displayed during this game. Milwaukee grabbed 18 offensive boards to Brooklyn’s 11. PJ Tucker and Brook Lopez were particularly proficient on the glass combing for nine of the offensive boards. Those offensive rebounds led to 24 second-chance points, compared to Brooklyn’s 20. Any coincidence the Bucks won by four?