Offensive flare there for Irving, Harden, Durant, but Nets ball security, defense needs work

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Cleveland Cavaliers
Kyrie Irving (11) and James Harden (right) were together with Kevin Durant for the first time as members of the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets’ Big 3 of James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving finally took the court together for the first time on Wednesday night after Irving’s return from an absence predicated around personal reasons and NBA COVID-19 protocol.

It didn’t all go as planned in a 147-135 double-overtime loss to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers, who were fueled by the 42 points of Collin Sexton, but the reviews from the participants themselves were promising.

“It felt right. It felt perfect. It felt like we belong together,” Durant said. “It felt like this journey together is going to be fun.”

The trio combined for 96 of the Nets’ points, Durant pouring in 38, Irving posting 37, and Harden adding 21 in a triple-double that also featured 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

The offense between the three wasn’t going to be a problem. Though there were initial concerns that there would be an inability to share the ball properly. Early returns suggest that an unselfish brand of play is a priority around the natural shot creation that each of the All-Stars brings.

“Playing with Kevin Durant, James Harden, just those names alone right now, we’re having some fun,” Irving said. “But it’s not just about us, and I’ll always say that. We’ll have good nights, we’ll have great nights, but it’s how we galvanize this group and sacrifice and compromise for the greater good. That still remains to be seen. One game is out of the way, but I’m excited for what’s to come.”

If the Nets want to start winning, though, they’ll need to bolster up the other obvious important aspects of successful basketball, like defense and turnovers.

Brooklyn allowed the team with the lowest offensive efficiency in the NBA to post 87 points on them over the first three quarters on Wednesday night.

What happens when they play an affluent offense? Relying on outscoring teams in a shootout is a dangerous brand of basketball to play — especially for a team with championship aspirations.

Taking care of the basketball will only help the defensive effort. The Nets are 26th in turnovers per game this season at 15.4 and it’s only gotten worse over the last three games. Sixteen turnovers on Wednesday followed 19 turnovers on Saturday and 17 on Monday.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” head coach Steve Nash said. “We know that. We know we have a very offensive team right now, so we have to find ways to defend, to get connected, to be on the same page.”

The Nets and their Big 3 have a shot at redemption against the Cavaliers as they play the second leg of their two-game Cleveland series on Friday night.

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