Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have not been messing around on the scoring end in their last three games.
Irving’s three-game averages of 34.3 PPG, 5 RPG and 5 APG show that he continues to be an enigma that opposing defenses can’t solve, but the Nets aren’t taking advantage. Durant has also been cooking of late, and has averaged 31.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG and 3.7 APG in that same span.
In Durant’s recent return from a short break, he had a pretty exciting duel with 42 points against Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 49. Irving and Khris Middleton had 20 and 26 points each. Durant shot 16 of 33 while Irving shot 8 of 21.
In the follow-up battle against the Bucks, the Nets duo combined for 70 points but lost 124-118 thanks to the trio of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday combining for 82.
Most recently, in the 113-109 loss to the Mavericks, Irving’s 45 (on 17 of 31 shooting), was matched with 20 points from Durant who only made 7 of 21 shots.
That first game against the Bucks start to show where some of Brooklyn’s problems lie. In the last three games, Irving and Durant’s combined shot attempts far outweigh the rest of their teammates:
- Nets vs. Bucks 1: 54 out of 96 (56.2% of total shots)
- Nets vs. Bucks 2: 47 out of 84 total shots (50% of total shots)
- Nets vs. Mavericks: 52 out of 95 (54.7% of total shots)
When a pair of players are taking more than half their team’s shots, both need to have great nights. Without two dominant performances, the team’s results suffer.
The Nets are going to have to figure out how to get a consistent third and fourth option going on the offense. Their current over-reliance on Durant and Irving will continue to hurt them when of them has an off night.
When you include a 128-109 defeat to the Blazers just before Durant’s return, the Nets are now mired in a four-game losing streak that has pulled them further behind the first-seeded Philadelphia 76ers. They’re also now half a game ahead of the third-place Bucks.
The Nets only have five games left in the regular season, and will be hoping some added rest can help their third star recover in time for the playoffs. That trio has still only played seven games together, so we’ll have to see how they can gel together again after such a long time away from each other on the court.
When the Nets have their trio playing at their brilliant best, they have a nigh-unstoppable offense.
Fortunately, according to ESPN, Harden is confident that he’ll be coming back before the postseason. As Harden has shown this year, he’s a playmaking virtuoso whose ball distribution really opens up the offense for Brooklyn. He could be the key to a run to the NBA Finals.