There was no questioning the firepower the Brooklyn Nets were capable of after they acquired James Harden from the Houston Rockets to form the new “Big 3” of the NBA alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Saturday night’s 134-117 victory over the Golden State Warriors, however, proved just how lethal this team as a whole can be — and why many believe they’ll be representing the Eastern Conference at the 2021 NBA Finals.
The trio of Durant, Harden, and Irving didn’t necessarily go off for monstrous nights in their blowout win. Durant had just 20 points against his old team while Irving had 23 and Harden added 19.
But Brooklyn’s other two starters — Joe Harris and Bruce Brown — put up 15 and 18 points respectively, making Saturday night the first time since an April 16, 1999 victory over the Seattle Supersonics that the Nets had all five of their starters account for at least 15 points in a single game.
Granted, this edition of the Nets is far more potent than the five that represented New Jersey 22 years ago: Stephon Marbury, Kendall Gill, Scott Burrell, Keith Van Horn, and Jamie Feick.
Still, the Nets are trying to find the perfect combination to maximize the potential of a star-studded team. Irving, a career point guard, and Harden, a shooting guard, have swapped positions.
“We established that maybe four days ago now,” Irving said. “I just looked at him, and I said, ‘You’re the point guard, and I’m going to play shooting guard.’ That was as simple as that.
“It’s not a mystical conversation that we had… He’s been taking control of the responsibilities and doing an incredible job. It just makes my job easier to just go out and play free and just make plays.”
The Nets have won both games since that conversation, improving their record to 5-2 since Harden’s arrival in Brooklyn.
“I came to this team knowing that they have two special scorers on this team,” Harden said. “Obviously, I score when I need to, but as long as I’m getting everybody involved and Ky is getting the shots that he wants, KD is getting the shots that he wants, it’s pretty efficient.
“Offensively is not the problem for us, we can score in bunches; it’s defensively. It seems like we’re getting a rhythm as of late. We just got to keep it up.”
The Nets’ west-coast swing continues on Monday night in Sacramento against the Kings (10 p.m. ET).