NEW YORK — Showtime is in a week and Brooklyn’s Big 3 is still learning the script.
The playoffs are around the corner, with Brooklyn’s 105-91 matinee win over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday leaving just Sunday’s game against the Cavaliers on the regular-season schedule. Yet the Nets looked more like a talented collection of players than a cohesive trio gunning for a championship.
And while some of that talent was enough to get by a lowly Bulls team without All-Star guard Zach LaVine (patellar tendinitis), the Nets’ Big 3 looked more like a Big One Plus One Plus One.
Saturday’s game was the first time the superstar trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving played together since Durant hurt his hamstring on Feb. 13 against the Warriors. It was only the seventh full game the trio played as a unit since the Nets acquired Harden in mid-January.
Yet the prevailing belief in Brooklyn has been that the collective talent of Brooklyn’s Big 3 — three all-world scorers and likely first-ballot Hall of Famers — would help accelerate the painstakingly slow process of building chemistry on a newly assembled team.
While that may be true down the road, it wasn’t the case Saturday afternoon. In fact, the Nets’ second unit and supporting cast bailed the stars out.
The Nets fell behind early as the Bulls opened the first quarter with a 12-0 run. It was the Nets’ bench that helped turn a double-digit deficit into a 14-point win.
Nets coach Steve Nash said his team came out flat.
Irving, however, was sensational: He started out hot, making eight of his first 12 shots before coming back to earth and finishing with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field. Durant, however, couldn’t buy a basket: a 4-of-17 shooting performance for 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists on the day. Harden only attempted four shots and ended the game with five points, seven assists and five rebounds.
A not-so big night from the Big One Plus One Plus One still looking for the ingredients to this chemistry formula.
An injection of energy came from Bruce Brown, who flexed his arms after every hustle play. The 6-4 guard finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, including three offensive rebounds in the first half. Jeff Green came off the bench and scored 19 points, shooting 5 of 6from downtown and Nic Claxton came off the bench with 10 points, eight rebounds and some good defense on All-Star center Nikola Vucevic.
The Nets held Vucevic to 10 points on 4-of-18 shooting from the field. They have kept him in check the last two outings against the Bulls, sure signs of defensive life for a Brooklyn which has been torched by Vooch in the past.
It’s a lot easier to game plan for Vucevic, however, when LaVine is not on the floor.
The days are limited where there won’t be stars on the other end of the hardwood. Every team the Nets have to face on their road to championship glory (or doom) will have a superstar (established or budding) on the floor.
Brooklyn’s Big 3 didn’t have the best performance as they shook the rust off against the Bulls. The Nets had better get some WD-40. Showtime is in a week, and the hinges on that black, white and gray door are squeaking.