The new era of Brooklyn Nets basketball is officially underway, as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden took the floor together for the first time on Wednesday night against the Cavaliers. It's safe to say things did not go to plan, however, as the Cavaliers won 147-135 in double overtime.
Collin Sexton stole the show, dropping a career-high 42 points to go with five rebounds and five assists. At one point he scored 20 straight points for the Cavs, including an incredible stretch in double-overtime to put the game away. Cedi Osman, meanwhile, went for 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
As for Brooklyn, they started out 10 of 10 from the field, and for a few minutes they looked completely unstoppable. But from that point on, things weren't so easy. There were other stretches where they got it going, but for large parts of the game they looked out of sync and very much like a team trying to figure things out on the fly. Durant put up 38 to lead the way, while Irving had 37 and Harden had 21.
Here are some key takeaways from the big game:
Now that was fun!
First of all, what a game! That was awesome. Between COVID-19, all of the injuries and (mostly) empty arenas, this hasn't been the most enjoyable season from a pure basketball product standpoint. At times it's definitely felt like everyone was just going through the motions, but that certainly wasn't the case in this game.
We had the intrigue of Durant, Irving and Harden playing their first game together, dramatic shots and calls down the stretch and a stunning performance from Sexton, who gifted us one of most entertaining stretches of basketball in a long time. It really doesn't get much better than this, especially in a weird season.
Cheers to the Nets and Cavs for giving us a great game.
Sexton steals the show
This game was supposed to be about the debut for the Nets' new big three, but it would be unfair to give them top billing after what Collin Sexton did on Wednesday night. It's strange for a regular season game on a Wednesday night in January to qualify as a coming out party, but that's really what this was for the young guard.
The No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Sexton's rookie season was completely forgettable, and his sophomore season was prematurely ended by the coronavirus pandemic. But now, after nearly an entire year off because the Cavs weren't invited to the bubble, Sexton has returned a new man.
With the star-studded Nets coming to town, Sexton finally had a chance to show off his improvement. And boy did he ever. Here, first, are the numbers: a career-high 42 points on 16-of-29 from the field and 5-of-11 from 3-point land, five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
It wasn't just that he put up big stats, though. With Irving draped all over him, he hit a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left in the first overtime to tie the game and send things to double overtime. There, he ripped off an unbelievable stretch of shotmaking that was one of the coolest things anyone has done on the court in a long time. All told, he scored 20 straight points for the Cavs to put things away.
About the new-look Nets
Besides the final result, this pretty much went as expected. There were stretches -- the 10 of 10 start, and the fourth quarter comeback -- where the big three was all out on the floor, the offense was flowing and they looked completely unstoppable. This is arguably the greatest collection of offensive talent in history, and sometimes the only answer is going to be throwing your hands up and wondering "what are we supposed to do?"
At the same time, this is very much a work in progress, and you could tell they were trying to figure things out on the fly. There were times the offense could get stagnant with too much one-on-one play, and it doesn't look like the Nets' role players are totally comfortable with their roles in the minutes where Harden runs the show by himself. They were also a bit careless with the ball at times in this game, and turned it over 16 times.
Then, of course, there's the defense, which as expected is very much not great. None of the big three are lockdown defenders, and there were times where the Cavaliers were just carving them up with pretty simple actions. Usually they're going to have too much firepower on the offensive end and it won't matter, but there are going to be games like this one where the defense is a real issue.