Seventy of the 72 games on the Brooklyn Nets’ regular season have been played after facing the San Antonio Spurs at the Barclays Center last night (Wednesday, May 12). Only the Chicago Bulls (Saturday) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (Sunday), both in Brooklyn, remain. After holding the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed for stretches throughout the season, the Nets were three games behind the Philadelphia 76ers, the East’s top seed, and only one game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks, who were in the No. 3 spot, when they played the Bulls in Chicago on Tuesday, May 11. They had lost four of their previous games heading into the matchup.
“I’m happy for us to be uncomfortable right now,” said head coach Steve Nash, after the Nets defeated the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. “I’m happy for us to struggle, suffer. These experiences, when we’re on the mat, are good for us. Our guys responded.”
A top three placing for the Nets and for the 76ers is a substantial improvement from last season. The Nets ended as the 7th seed and Philly at 6. The Milwaukee Bucks had the NBA’s best record at 56-17. The Bucks have proven to be problematic for Brooklyn, beating them twice in Milwaukee last week by 128-109 and 117-114. Milwaukee also defeated the 76ers twice in late April at home, 124-117 and a 132-94 blowout.
The Bucks are a major obstacle on the Nets’ and 76ers’ path to the league Finals, but Brooklyn’s immediate attention is on getting fully healthy for the first round matchup against a yet to be determined lower seed. While Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have shown they are ready for the postseason, James Harden is still not back in the lineup. He has been out since April 5 with a right hamstring strain.
In the 34 games that he’s played as a Brooklyn Net, Harden is averaging 25.4 points, 11 assists and 8.7 rebounds. The trio of Durant, Irving and Harden have only played seven games together. With Harden out, Durant, who was averaging 28.2 points per game as of Tuesday, and Irving, who was scoring at a 27.4 points per game clip, have carried the offense. Along with the Nets third leading scorer Joe Harris (14.1), they have received solid help from veteran forwards Jeff Green and Blake Griffin.
Before going up against the Bulls, Green was averaging 10.8 points and four rebounds in 27.4 minutes per outing and Griffin 10.1 with 5 rebounds.