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What the Nets Big 3 showed bettors in their Game 1 win over the Celtics

Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving displayed why the Nets are title favorites.

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game One
Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets is congratulated by teammates Kevin Durant and James Harden after Irving drew the foul against the Boston Celtics during Game One of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series on May 22, 2021 at Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets finally had their Big 3 healthy at the perfect time. Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving were on the court to start Brooklyn’s series against the Boston Celtics, just the ninth game the three stars have played together in for the Nets this year. Here’s how bettors should react to Brooklyn’s 104-93 victory in Game 1, a result that increased their championship odds to +210, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

The first quarter, by all accounts, was an absolute disaster for the Nets. Here’s how Brooklyn’s Big 3 fared in their opening playoff period.

First Quarter Statistics vs. Celtics in Game 1

Kevin Durant: 8 points, 5 rebounds, 2-10 FG, 0-3 3P
James Harden: 2 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound, 1-3 FG, 0-2 3P
Kyrie Irving: 4 points, 1 rebound, 2-7 FG, 0-3 3P

Brooklyn’s superstar trio was always going to need time to find chemistry, but this is the type of quarter that would normally sink the Nets. Irving and Durant didn’t record a single assist while Harden only had three shots. No one could find a bucket from deep. The shot distribution will eventually even itself out, but Harden should have more attempts. Head coach Steve Nash will be able to devise some plays, but the players will also be tasked with figuring things out themselves. Given no one had a hot hand, Harden should’ve gotten some more shots up. Luckily, the Celtics went cold as well and only mustered 21 points in the frame.

Second Quarter Statistics vs. Celtics in Game 1

Kevin Durant: 8 points, 1 assist, 2 rebounds, 3-5 FG, 0-1 3P
James Harden: 6 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, 1-4 FG, 0-1 3P
Kyrie Irving: 5 points, 1 assist, 2 rebounds, 2-3 FG, 0-1 3P

The Nets found their footing in the second quarter, with Harden getting more usage as a ball-handler. Durant and Irving got back on track with efficiency, but the Nets also regressed to their 22nd-ranked defense in terms of efficiency. The Celtics took a six-point lead into the break, but this was an encouraging sign of things to come.

Third Quarter Statistics vs. Celtics in Game 1

Kevin Durant: 13 points, 3 rebounds, 4-7 FG, 1-3 3P
James Harden: 8 points, 1 assist, 3 rebounds, 3-4 FG, 2-3 3P
Kyrie Irving: 7 points, 3-5 FG, 1-3 3P

This is about as close to an ideal shot distribution for the Nets. Durant got hot and got most of the shots as a result, but he should be the attempts leader in any situation. Harden and Irving were almost even on attempts, but Harden handled the ball more and the offense seemed more efficient as a result. Irving is a strong passer, but his best ability is scoring. That was on display in a third quarter where the Nets outscored the Celtics 31-20.

Fourth Quarter Statistics vs. Celtics in Game 1

Kevin Durant: 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1-3 FG, 0-1 3P
James Harden: 5 points, 1 assist, 2 rebounds, 0-2 FG, 0-2 3P
Kyrie Irving: 13 points, 3 rebounds, 4-5 FG, 1-1 3P

Irving got hot in the third quarter and stayed hot in the final period, sealing Brooklyn’s victory. The most encouraging sign for Nets fans may been Harden getting to the free throw six times in this quarter, one of his strongest attributes on the offensive end. Against stronger teams later on, Brooklyn will want this trend to keep going.

From an efficiency standpoint, Brooklyn’s Big 3 operated in a way many would expect. Durant and Irving combined for 45 shots while Harden only took 13. Blake Griffin was essentially reduced to a passer in this game, tallying four assists while failing to attempt a single shot. The three stars should command most of the shots, but they can’t take all of them. Griffin should be more involved going forward. This type of offensive structure seems to fit each player’s strengths best and Brooklyn will improve as Durant, Harden and Irving get more games together. Another encouraging sign is Durant and Harden combining to attempt 22 free throws while repeatedly embracing contact. This should alleviate any health concerns bettors and Nets fans have.

The potential problem with this structure is a lack of ball movement from Durant and Irving. Those two combined for two assists and although that statistic somewhat relies on teammates making shots, they should be able to do better than this. Look for Durant and Irving to be more involved as distributors in Game 2 as the team continues to build chemistry.

Despite the rough start, the Nets survived Game 1. This will likely be a short series, but Brooklyn’s offense cannot withstand a big drought against better opponents given the defensive concerns. The most promising sign for bettors and Nets fans is Brooklyn’s Big 3 getting its rhythm over the course of a game. Durant, Harden and Irving can use the remaining games to fine tune the basic offensive structure without major consequences before further integrating role players ahead of stiffer challenges.

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