The thrashing that the Golden State Warriors handed down to the Brooklyn Nets and Kevin Durant only highlighted the absence of Kyrie Irving in the game. GSW was so dominant on both ends of the floor that Steve Nash went deep to his bench almost four minutes into the 4th quarter.
It was very clear early into the second half that KD sorely lacked the support he could have gotten with Irving around.
Stephen A. Smith, on First Take, ripped into Kyrie Irving for the total lack of support when Kevin Durant was hounded by the Warriors’ top-ranked defense. The ESPN sports analyst minced no words in chewing out the All-Star guard.
Here’s what he said:
“Kevin Durant, I’m sad for you bro. …KD, you made the wrong decision, Bro and here’s why. Because you trusted Kyrie, Kyrie Irving betrayed you. Flat out betrayed you!!! Left you hanging. And while you’re sitting up there getting your a** kicked last night, Steph Curry was shimmying there, joking around, laughing on the court. They were cheering for Steph Curry in Brooklyn!!! From the opening tap, they were chanting MVP in the Barclays Center and it wasn’t for the dude averaging 29.8 points for the Brooklyn Nets. It was for Steph Curry!!!”
Smith also did not spare James Harden, who has had a shaky season.
“You gotta get your act together right now. You ain’t James Harden right now. …You had 24 points last night. It’s the most meaningless 24 points that I’ve ever seen from the career of James Harden. You are a superstar and you are not looking like one!!! It is that simple. You gotta get it together.”
Stephen A. Smith’s tirade did not just stop with Kyrie Irving and James Harden. He also lambasted the Barclays Center crowd for their lack of emotion and passion, even cheering on Steph Curry when the home team was getting pummeled.
Could the Brooklyn Nets have changed the outcome of the game with Kyrie Irving around?
The Brooklyn Nets weren’t just missing their mercurial shooting guard. They were also without Joe Harris, who could have helped with the spacing and three-point shooting. Without Kyrie Irving and Harris, the Nets’ perimeter game looked cramped and disjointed.
The Warriors’ defense has been relentless, which is what their defense has been in their championship years. Even with Kyrie Irving around, it might not be enough to survive the Warriors’ onslaught.
The magnitude of Irving’s absence has been underlined in the Brooklyn Nets’ most important games. They’ve lost by double figures to the Warriors, Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks. With Harden still trying to get back to his old self, Kevin Durant just has not had the kind of support he enjoyed before.
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It’s uncertain if the Brooklyn Nets could have won that game with Kyrie Irving in the lineup, but they could have been more competitive. Irving’s unavailability has highlighted the cracks of this team that KD can’t cover all the time, particularly against elite competition.