Some are already dubbing it an NBA Finals preview. And while we’re still a long way off from that, one thing is certain: Thursday’s matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers will be appointment viewing.
Ahead of the marquee matchup in Los Angeles, Lakers star LeBron James was asked about Brooklyn’s Big Three — and didn’t disappoint.
LeBron Weighs In
When the Nets shipped away a pile of first-round picks and valuable roster pieces as part of a four-way trade to acquire James Harden from the Houston Rockets on January 14, Brooklyn had assembled its Big Three. Harden joined Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in forming one of the most fearsome offensive trios in NBA history.
But is it the most fearsome offensive trio in NBA history? On Tuesday, after going off for 30 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in the Lakers’ 112-104 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, LeBron was asked by a reporter if there was a team that he could compare to in league history that has as much offensive firepower as the Nets.
LeBron hesitated for a moment before responding: “Have we forgot about KD, Steph and Klay already?” he said, via NBA reporter Ben Stinar.
LeBron James asked about the new look Brooklyn Nets and their upcoming matchup next game pic.twitter.com/9VO0FocJr3
— Ben Stinar (@BenStinar) February 17, 2021
Those Warriors — the teams led by Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson from 2016-19 — won two NBA titles together. A chance at a third in 2018-19 was derailed by a rash of injuries to key players, including Durant and Thompson.
The 2016-17 Warriors averaged 115.9 points per game with an offensive rating of 115.6, the 2017-18 Warriors averaged 113.5 points per game with an offensive rating of 113.6, and the 2018-19 Warriors averaged 117.7 points per game with an offensive rating of 115.9.
In the first 16 games the Nets had played since acquiring Harden, they averaged a league-best 123.8 points per game with an offensive rating of 120.2 (not including Tuesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, which both Durant and Irving missed due to injury).
It’s a much smaller sample size than all of those Warriors teams had together, but it’s clear these Nets will be challenging them in the history books.
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LeBron Excited About Facing Nets… With One Caveat
LeBron quickly acknowledged that Thursday’s test will be a significant one for the Lakers — and one that he’s looking forward to.
The only drawback, according to LeBron: The game won’t feature the best it has to offer. That’s because, at a minimum, one superstar will miss the game. Los Angeles power forward Anthony Davis won’t play due to an Achilles injury that is reportedly sidelining him for a significant portion of time.
Anthony Davis' MRI revealed a calf strain and a re-aggravation of the right Achilles tendonosis, source said. Once Davis returns to Los Angeles, he'll immediately get another evaluation there. It is extremely unlikely Davis returns to lineup prior to ASG break ending March 10.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 15, 2021
There’s also a question about Durant and even Irving’s availability for Thursday. Nets coach Steve Nash said Irving’s lower-back injury is “day-to-day,” per The Athletic’s Alex Schiffer, who noted that Nash said Irving played through the ailment against the Sacramento Kings on Monday. Nash said he thinks Irving will be back “in the short-term,” according to Schiffer.
Durant’s status is murkier. Per Schiffer, Nash didn’t have an update on if Durant, who is dealing with a hamstring strain, will play Thursday.
Steve Nash doesn't have an update on if Kevin Durant will play Thursday. Said it's too early.
— Alex Schiffer (@Alex__Schiffer) February 17, 2021
Still, there’s at least a chance LeBron sees Brooklyn’s Big Three. And if that’s the case, he’s pumped up about it.
“Well, it’s always exciting for me to go against some of the best guys in the game,” James said, per Stinar, “and they’ve got three of them. They’ve got three of the best guys in the game. Definitely love it to be full (strength) when you’re playing against a team like that and see, like, at that point in the season, where you match up, how you match up against some of the best teams in the league. Obviously, we won’t be full (strength) on Thursday. But other than that, yeah, I love going out there and just being on the floor with some of the best to play this game.”