It came down to the final seconds of an overtime session in a Game 7 but in the end, the Brooklyn Nets came up short.
A 115-111 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals brought the curtains on the Big 3's first season in Brooklyn, one that they would have hoped to contend for a championship.
However, it wasn't all smooth sailing. With injuries and the league's health and safety protocols due to COVID-19, the Nets were always fighting an uphill battle to stay on the court despite the team's depth and level of talent.
"I just told them how proud I am of them," Nets head coach Nash said postgame about his message to the team.
Steve Nash details his message to his team after tonight's loss:- Nets Videos (@SNYNets) June 20, 2021
"They couldn't have given us anything more... I hurt for them more than anything" pic.twitter.com/yY9mSkztq7
Kevin Durant, playing his first full season after suffering an Achilles injury two years ago, played every second of Games 5 and 7. A few nights after his 49-point triple-double in Game 5, KD dropped an NBA record of 48 points in the winner-take-all contest.
He finished with series averages of 35.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists on shooting splits of 51.4 percent shooting from the field, 40.2 percent from beyond the arc and 87.1 percent from the charity stripe.
Those stellar numbers, however, don't do anything for the pain KD is feeling about losing the series.
Kevin Durant says he doesn't feel any better about the Nets being eliminated because he played so well:- Nets Videos (@SNYNets) June 20, 2021
"Not at all. Who cares?" pic.twitter.com/TqF2DxxeEV
In the final seconds of regulation in Game 7, Durant nearly wrapped up their series on a game-winner but his toes were on the line and his clutch jumper was called a 2-pointer instead of a 3. Instead of celebrating a series win, the Nets were griding it out in overtime.
"But my big a-- foot stepped on the line," Durant said, in part. "I just saw how close I was to ending their season with that shot."
"Simply amazing...," Nets reserve forward Jeff Green said postgame on Durant. "He gave us all he had... That guy is special."
On the other hand, with Irving still unavailable to play since injuring his ankle in Game 4, James Harden was forced to return early from his rehab and play on his injured hamstring. He averaged 46.2 minutes over the last three games before sharing the severity of his injury postgame.
"It's basically a Grade 2 hamstring strain," Harden shared.
"First possession of Game 1 up until Game 5, that I was the first time I did anything, any basketball or competition against anybody. I was just literally going out there on a limb."
James Harden reveals he played the last 3 games with a grade 2 hamstring strain:- Nets Videos (@SNYNets) June 20, 2021
"I was literally going out there on a limb" pic.twitter.com/SyfNsWtyrA
After a rough Game 5, with five points on 1-of-10 shooting from the field, Harden bounced back to nearly record a triple-double as he finished Game 7 with 22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
However, the battle against injuries was too much. Irving missed the final three games of the season, Harden played the final three on a strained hamstring and Durant missed 37 games in the regular season, which meant the Big 3 played only seven games despite acquiring Harden 13 games into the season.
"To take that team without Kai and James on one leg out there doing anything he can to help his teammates," Nash said postgame. "And you go down the line."
"What (Blake Griffin) gave us. Kevin's just, I don't know what more Kevin could do. It's just out of this world and you can say that for all our guys at a different part of the season gave us something. Just really really proud of the group and I hurt for them."
They may have come up well short of their goal but there's no debating what this team has achieved this season and the great work that Nash has done in his first season as head coach, leading them to a 48-24 record despite all the adversity and injuries they faced.
They'll surely be back next season, healthier and probably hungrier.
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