The Brooklyn Nets will kick off Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. It is one of the most anticipated matchups of this year’s playoffs. An intriguing story to watch will be the performance of Nets’ star James Harden as this year’s playoffs move along. During his time with the Houston Rockets, Harden would notoriously flame out in the latter rounds of the playoffs because of the sizeable offensive load that he was forced to carry for the team. Now in a situation in Brooklyn where he can primarily focus on getting others involved, Harden insists that this year’s playoffs will be different.
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Harden Is ‘More Confident’ This Postseason
“It’s going to be a showdown but I’m more than confident going into this postseason just because of the roster and then our schemes and the things we can control with the versatility that we have.” Harden told reporters on Friday, June 4 per NetsDaily.
“It’s always exciting especially when you get deeper and deeper into the postseason. That means you’re one of those really good teams and the thing about this series and even in the postseason is once you get deeper in the series, three or four games, the plays don’t matter anymore. It’s about individual will, individual skill, and guys going to go get it. Both teams have that so it’s whoever is going to go take it.”
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Harden Thinks Nets Can Be Better
The Nets’ first round series with the Boston Celtics may have only lasted five games, but their matchup with Boston was anything but a cakewalk. Having to defend a certified bucket in Jason Tatum while at the same time dealing with a defensive irritant like Marcus Smart is no easy task. The Nets had to work hard to earn those wins. Harden notes that even though the Nets won the series in five games, Brooklyn has the potential to be a lot better than they were in the first round.
“Yeah, and we did so many things in that film session that we could’ve corrected or could have been better at which is one of the reasons we’re in a good place because we can get better, and we will get better. We’ll continue to get better game by game, possession by possession,” Harden continued. “That’s all we focus on is ourselves no matter who our opponent is. We focus on us getting better because we haven’t had that opportunity throughout the course of the regular season. We focus on ourselves and the things we can control and that’s it. Everything else will play itself out.”
These Aren’t the Same Old Bucks
After yet another disappointing playoff exit in last summer’s NBA Bubble, the Bucks’ front office did some fine tuning to their roster in the offseason. The addition of defensive specialists Jrue Holiday and PJ Tucker this season, has opened up the floor for Milwaukee. As a result they are able to score easily in transition which makes them even more dangerous than last season. Harden knows that when the Nets’ second-round matchup tips off for Game 1, it will not be against the same old Bucks.
“They’re a very good team,” Harden said. “They’ve had their core for some years now and then they add Jrue [Holiday], PJ [Tucker] and some other guys in [Bobby] Portis and [Bryn] Forbes. They’ve had their core and added some really good pieces which is why they’ve been one of the best teams all year. If you look at our roster, we’re elite too.”
As the playoffs move forward, we will be able to tell if this is a new version of Harden as well.