“Getting hit in the mouth” seems like an overused figure of speech by now. Be that as it may, nothing else could better describe how the first round of last year’s playoffs went for the Brooklyn Nets.
The opening round’s first contest saw the Nets lose on a buzzer-beating layup from Jayson Tatum. The second saw them blow a 17-point lead. The torment turned domestic after that, as the Nets lost their next two games at home to accept the sweep—one to an inter-divisional rival no less.
However, that was several weeks ago. Time heals all wounds and for some it even builds strength. Kyrie Irving is certainly part of that crowd, having recently talked about his team’s early playoff exit at the hands of the Celtics and what it could do for the team going forward.
While speaking with KaiCenat, YourRage, and Bruce Ray on The Boyz Night Podcast this past weekend, Irving said the following about the aforementioned playoff series vs Boston:
"“It was meant to happen like that. Motivation, bro. We needed it. We needed that humbling experience, especially going against the Celtics. It was already built in to be that matchup. So we’re going to see them again. We’re going to have to. They’re going to be where they’re going to be.”"
Uncle Drew went ballistic to begin that series, opening things up with a 39-point performance where he shot 12-20 from the field and 6-10 from downtown. However, he struggled a bit from that point forward, averaging 15.3 points per game on .372/.182 splits.
Given his team’s demise and productivity drop-off following Game 1, Irving’s words feel genuine. Losing in that fashion is enough to “humble” anyone, even one of the game’s most gifted players of all time.
Regardless, it’s the other side of Irving’s comments that should have Brooklyn Nets fans foaming at the mouth with less than a month to go until the 2022-23 NBA season.
Irving’s words about the Nets “needing” such an experience to how it could push the team going forward are both exciting and true. What could motivate a title-contending team more than an early playoff exit still visible in their rear-view mirror?
Brooklyn’s playoff loss against the Milwaukee Bucks a season ago could easily be excused given the team’s injuries, but even with Ben Simmons out last year, a first round sweep was inexcusable. The Nets seem to have a chip on their shoulder for the first time in the 7-Eleven era—and that’s a good thing.
If there’s ever going to be a Durant/Irving Nets team that rises above the rest, we’re likely to get it this year rather than any other due to the aforementioned circumstances. All of their chips are now pushed to the middle of the table, so go get your popcorn ready.