After months of watching this Suns team look like they can beat any other team in a playoff series with their special combination of offense/defense/closers while posting the league’s best record over the last 41 games, the Brooklyn Nets blew all that away on Sunday.
The Phoenix Suns sport the league’s 5th best defense, including top-10 ranks in all the major ‘shooting percentage allowed’ categories, but the offense of the Brooklyn Nets has just been unstoppable for the Suns. And the Nets have not even unleashed all three heads of their Hydra yet.
The Nets have tallied two of the top six shooting games against the Suns this year, sinking 57% of their shots on February 16 with James Harden at the helm (minus Kyrie and KD) and then 53% of their shots yesterday with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant dominating (minus the Beard).
Their numbers against the Suns this year have been gaudy...
- Harden on Feb 16: 38 points on 64% shooting, 11 assists, 7 rebounds
- Kyrie on Apr 25: 34 points on 52% shooting, 12 assists, 6 rebounds
- Kevin Durant on Apr 25: 33 points on 57% shooting, 4 assists, 6 rebounds
As great as those guys played versus the Suns, they did not win the games all by themselves. The two games were decided by a grand total of 14 points after all. If the Nets supporting cast had been even middling in those games, the Suns might have won both. But that’s not what happened.
On Feb 16, Harden’s supporting cast made 15 of 29 threes, including Tyler Johnson — yeah, THAT Tyler Johnson — draining 5 of 8.
On April 25, KD and Kyrie needed just a little bit of support from the bench, and got 30 points from Blake Griffin (16), Tyler (8), Bruce Brown (4) and another former Sun in Mike James (2).
Griffin had possibly his best game of the season with 16 points, 8 rebounds and about a dozen infuriating plays (drawing offensive fouls, not getting caught for sneaky fouls of his own) that helped unravel the Suns moxie.
This is no aberration for the Nets. They have only had all three of their stars in the lineup for 7 of their 61 games so far, yet are leading the East at 41-20 anyway because they’ve got an offensive scheme led by former Suns greats Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni. I can easily imagine all three being not only healthy at playoff time but also feeling well-rested for the first time their careers.
The Suns don’t have answers for the bulldog James Harden, the tallest knock down shooter in history in Kevin Durant or the shiftiest scorer in the game in Kyrie Irving. They are all cheat codes on offense and at least passable on defense. But who cares about defense when you know you can score on any and every possession?
For the past twenty years, the usual talk has been that whoever wins the West will have an easier time in the Finals. That won’t be the case this year.
This time it will probably be the West winner getting buzz-sawed by the Nets in the Finals after surviving the West gauntlet.