James Harden
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 07: James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets congratulates teammate Kevin Durant #7 after the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks during game two of the Eastern Conference second-round series at Barclays Center on June 07, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Nets looked absolutely unstoppable last night without James Harden, beating the Bucks by 39.

Is there really anyone in the NBA playoffs right now good enough to beat the Brooklyn Nets? Off the top of my head, I can’t see another team even competing with them. The Eastern Conference, once seen as wide open, is probably considered the most predictable conference. The cohesiveness and unselfishness shown by New York’s second team has been enough for anyone who knows basketball to see them as the team to beat in the playoffs. Being able to do this without James Harden, however, is spectacular.

Let’s look at the competition the Nets could potentially face on their way to the NBA Finals. The Bucks, who looked just as good as my 6th-grade travel basketball team in Game 2, will need 2 straight wins at home to have any chance. The 76ers are going nowhere without a healthy Joel Embiid, and the Hawks don’t have enough defenders to stop the Big 3.

The Smart Move

Over the last 2 games, the Nets have shot 49.5% from the field and nearly 44% from 3. All this comes while holding the Bucks to 44% on FGs and a staggering 25% on 3s. In the regular season, Milwaukee shot 49% and 39% from the field and from 3, respectively. Time will tell whether they’re able to turn this around at home, but as of now, it’s looking bleak. If Brooklyn adds Harden back to the mix, it will become even less likely.

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The Nets are a powerhouse that will continue to dismantle teams on their way to the NBA Finals. That is obvious at this point. The question is if they will need Harden to do it. Depending on how bad his hamstring is, the Nets would be smart to keep him out until they REALLY need him. Rushing someone they don’t need back from a stingy injury like a hamstring strain could come back to bite them later in the playoffs.

KD and Kyrie Will Hold it Down

Without The Beard, the original big 2 of KD and Kyrie Irving will be fine on their own for now. Durant is playing like the best player in the world, and you always know what you’re getting with Kyrie. Along with the Nets’ supporting cast, they should be able to secure their franchise’s first conference championship since 2003 with ease, with or without James Harden.