I don’t live by many rules but this is one of them: if you have to live and die by something you only worked on for 12 per cent of your training, things might not work out…
And that’s where we as NBA fans are sitting.
From confidently tipping the Brooklyn All-Star squad to win it big to looking at them more of like a school sick bay, because Kyrie Irving’s right ankle sprain against Milwaukee on Monday buys him a free seat right next to James Harden, whose injury updates are mysteriously quiet and undisclosed.
But with 6870 possessions in the regular season, according to Clean the Glass, Kevin Durant only took the floor for 566 without Kyrie Irving and James Harden.
That means for 12 per cent of the season, Durant had to compete for these limited minutes without another superstar on the floor, something Durant hasn’t fully experienced since 2014 when Russell Westbrook missed nearly half the season.
So, the question remains: with only one-day breaks between each game in this accelerated series, can Durant beat a formidable Milwaukee Bucks team with no superstar by his side?
It’s never a good sign if you are relying on a vintage Blake Griffin to come out and get the job done.
The reality is Blake is less Shawn Kemp now and more Charles Oakley. He can protect the paint from Giannis Antetokounmpo because of his wide strength, throw some dirty elbows in the post and clobber the glass for rebounds.
But just like a lot of the Nets’ supporting cast, he is much less of a three point threat without Harden or Irving.
This speaks most for Joe Harris, who has maybe benefited the most from Harden and Irving’s presence.
He also was the biggest reason for the Nets’ collapse in Game 3 and 4, shooting a combined 3 from 13 from the trey.
It is not a coincidence that without Harden and later Kyrie, Harris was not a ‘top three shooter in the league’ or am ‘underground All-Star’ like fans were hinting at later in the season when there was little going on.
This theme of over-hyping role players who share the floor with three unguardable demigods is consistent everywhere in Brooklyn.
Nicholas Claxton seems good until you realise you can’t run any plays for him on offence.
The same remains for Bruce Brown, Mike James or Landry Shamet, even though the Nets will have to rely on their scoring to beat the No.1 defensive rated team in the league.
Strangely, there is still hope for Jeff Green to have a 25-plus performance or a crazy unexpected buzzer-beater.
Seriously, something about him is Robbert Horry-esque.
But with so many things uncertain about where and how Brooklyn are going to fill in Harden and Irving’s absences, one thing is known for sure: for Durant to do this, his performance will have to be replayed on ESPN Classics 20 years from now.
It will have to force the entire NBA Twitter-sphere to react to it.
It will have to be so great that if they go on and win the finals, fans will say Durant was robbed of Finals MVP if he doesn’t win it – just because of this second round series. That’s what it’s going to take for him to pull this off.
When Kyrie got injured, the Nets came out the next quarter shooting 1-11, while the Bucks went on a 10-0 run.
Supporting players who grew comfortable shooting wide open shots realised they had to compete off the dribble while others who were never looked upon to score, had to score.
Unfortunately for Durant, his security guard can’t help him out more than he already has.
Because it is becoming increasingly obvious that the James Harden injury is worse than being let on.
‘If you have nothing good to say don’t say, don’t say anything at all’, has historically applied most to NBA superstar’s injuries, and this is no exception.
Plus Kyrie’s ankle sprain, for the many NBA ankle sprains fans witness, this was on the ‘holy crap, he might have even broken something’ side of the axis.
While Milwaukee are playing less like a Space Jam one-man show and more of a collaborative goon squad, the Nets still won’t rush their stars back at the risk of repeating a 2019 Finals Durant injury.
But who knows, maybe if Giannis keeps shooting threes, just maybe, the Nets might have a shot.