The formula for the Brooklyn Nets’ success is pretty straightforward: They will go as far as whichever standing members of their Big 3 will take them.
With James Harden reaggravating a hamstring injury that held him out for basically the final month of the regular season, that puts the onus on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to carry the proverbial load in the Nets’ second-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
So far, so good.
The Nets have a 2-0 lead heading into Game 3 on Thursday night in Milwaukee where a Bucks team flirting with desperation will throw everything but the kitchen sink at Brooklyn to ensure they don’t fall into an 0-3 series hole.
But Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. have much more than Irving and Durant to deal with. And on Wednesday, the Nets gave some well-deserved recognition for a player that has provided consistency in the background in Bruce Brown.
The 24-year-old guard acquired from the Detroit Pistons in November has provided grit and defensive fortitude that goes against the grain of the Nets’ new age of panache — but it’s all the more vital.
“He’s quick. He’s smart. He screens and he also gets in and out quickly so he makes it very difficult to defend because of his pace and then when he does get the ball he’s really skilled at rolling and making a play or drawing the defense and passing to his teammates,” Nets head coach Steve Nash told the team’s official website. “It’s really unique to have a guard be able to pick that up and do it so well, almost seamlessly. He did it from day one when we asked him to do that, almost naturally. It’s valuable and it’s impressive. He’s just been a really great piece for us.”
In Game 2 on Monday, starting for Harden, he posted 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting with six rebounds and four assists in just 25 minutes. He was a plus-7 on the floor, recorded a career-best playoff game score of 13.4, and led the Nets’ defensive effort in what ultimately became a 125-86 beatdown of Milwaukee.
Brown’s contributions were nothing new for Durant, who even made note of Brown while he was playing out in Detroit.
“Me and [Kyrie] talked about it once we got Bruce that playing against him the last two years, I mean nobody really knew him in Detroit, but when you play against him and you got him in the scouting report he kind of disrupted our flow when I was in Golden State a bit one game,” Durant said. “I was like who is this kid? He was a second-round pick, I didn’t hear of him, I didn’t watch him in college.
“We knew he played with extreme passion and intensity and whenever he had got a chance — early on he wasn’t playing for us — but whenever he got a chance, we knew he was going to come in and make an impact.”
Brown and the Nets will look to continue feeding off that impact and momentum Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. ET in Milwaukee.