The Brooklyn Nets will clearly lean on Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and, should his health allow it, James Harden in order to try and put away the Milwaukee Bucks in their second-round playoff series. Still, the play of Joe Harris will once again end up in the spotlight given how he can help take a game over.
Harris signed a four-year, $75 million contract with Brooklyn in the offseason in order to become the tertiary scoring option. While the trade for James Harden took some shots away, Harris remains one of the most important role players in the league considering how he can impact the game with his shooting.
For the second time in three seasons, Harris led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage. Unfortunately, Harris didn’t look like that against Milwaukee, as one of the main reasons the Nets fell in Game 3 was the normally sure-handed Harris getting ice-cold from beyond the 3-point line.
The Nets mustered just 83 points in that loss, with Durant, Irving, and Harris making just 21 of their 61 shots. Harris was the worst offender, going 1-11 while making just one 3-point attempt. Simply put, if the Nets are to go up 3-1 without the benefit of Harden, Harris needs to shoot like the best gunner in the game.
Joe Harris will be integral to the Brooklyn Nets’ success in Game 4.
Despite all of their star power, Brooklyn’s role players hold the keys to success in this series. When Durant starts navigating inside the arc for shots, Irving begins another mind-bending drive to the lane, or Harden tries to bully his way to the lane, the secondary players will be wide open on the perimeter.
In the first two games of this series, Harris averaged 16 points per game and made eight 3-point shots. Coincidently, in both of those games, Brooklyn beat the stuffing out of the Bucks. It doesn’t take a genius to see the correlation.
When Harris scores 16 or more points this season, the Nets are 21-4. Usually when Harris is getting his shots up, it’s because the two stars have sucked the defense’s attention away from the rest of the squad. All he has to do it hit open shots. However, in Game 4, he might need to be a bit less stationary on offense.
While he isn’t necessarily deficient in this area, Harris could be used as a primary or secondary creator more in this game with Harden still out. Landry Shamet and Bruce Brown will see an uptick in minutes, but neither of them has quite the offensive bag Harris has, which could make him an integral part of the gameplan.
While Durant and Irving will likely shoot better than they did in Game 3, the Nets can’t expect someone like Brown to put up the numbers he tallied during the back-and-forth loss in Milwaukee. Harris needs to replace that production, though doing that against this Milwaukee team is easier said than done.
Giannis will likely try to work on slowing down durant, while Jrue Holiday will be in charge of stopping Kyrie. While Khris Middleton might end up switched onto Harris for a few possessions, the loss of Donte DiVincenzo has impacted Milwaukee’s perimeter defense, and Harris should be able to explot that with a few well-timed buckets.
Harris occasionally puts up some duds, but they are such extreme outliers that they should do little to challenge his status as one of the best shooters in the game. He needs to live up to that status of the Nets want to put their flubs at the end of Game 3 in the rear-view mirror and take control of the series again.