The Brooklyn Nets will kick off their playoff run on Saturday night against Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics. It has been a long road to get to the playoffs after facing multiple injuries and countless turmoil off of the court but what has failed to kill the Nets has made them stronger.
Brooklyn is heavily favored to win the NBA Finals this year and that starts with the catalyst of their offense James Harden. Harden, who missed over a month of playing action due to a strained hamstring that he suffered against the New York Knicks on April 5 returned for the Nets last week.
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Harden Sends Message to the Rest of the NBA
The Nets have still been protective of Harden as hamstrings are an injury you can never be too cautious with. The Nets held Harden out of the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday due to injury management. ‘The Beard’ was asked about the status of his health heading into the postseason. Harden’s response was short, sweet, and to the point.
“I’m back,” Harden said of his injury via Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News.
James Harden on his injury status: “I’m back.”
— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) May 19, 2021
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Harden Only Concerned About Winning
Harden’s scoring totals have dropped significantly since joining the Nets this season. Last season with the Rockets he averaged 34.3 points per game. In his first season with the Nets that number has dipped significantly to 24.6 points per game. While his numbers may not be as high since coming to Brooklyn, Harden’s new role with the Nets has proved to be a winning formula as they enter the playoffs as the second seed in the Eastern Conference. To ‘The Beard’ that is all that matters.
“I thought winning was all that matters?” Harden said to reporters on Wednesday via ESPN’s Malika Andrews. “When I was doing the stats and putting up the numbers, it wasn’t good enough. So, at some point, we’ve gotta figure out what we’re talking about. But it’s all about winning.”
Despite a decrease in his numbers, Harden has clearly been the catalyst for the Nets offense this year. The Nets are 28-7 when Harden plays and just 11-11 when he does not.
“My impact doesn’t have to show up on the stat sheet for us to win,” Harden continued. “I think my job as a leader is to make sure everybody’s playing well. If I’m doing that, I can focus on myself last. That’s not a problem at all.”
James Harden could only laugh when asked about his stats from his final 2 games of the season
“I thought winning was all that matters. When I was doing stats and putting up the numbers it wasn’t good enough. At some point point we have to figure out what we’re talking about” pic.twitter.com/HJMzv4AfER
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) May 19, 2021
The Nets Are Not Treating the Celtics Like an Underdog
While the Nets are heavily favored to win the series against the Celtics, Brooklyn is not treating the series as if Boston are the underdogs. Nets forward Kevin Durant understands that underestimating an opponent in the postseason is entering dangerous territory.
“I understand that stuff on paper and how teams look and how accomplished players on our team are,” Durant said via ESPN’s Malika Andrews. “But for us, we respect the game and our opponents too much to come in and say, ‘look we’re expected to win this.’ We’re coming out there and understanding we can be beat if we don’t lock-in.”
Finally, at full strength, the Nets are locked and loaded for what they hope is an extended playoff run.
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