Former Georgetown University basketball player Monica McNutt is a basketball analyst for ESPN and has liked the Brooklyn Nets' chances since Kyrie Irving's return.
Irving returned to the league after the franchise reversed their stance on having an unvaccinated player available only for road games. Since his return this month, Irving has played in three games, all on the road, of course.
The Brooklyn Nets put on a show against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, winning the Eastern Conference showdown by 26 points. On ESPN's "First Take," co-host Charly Arnolt asked Monica McNutt how scary the Nets look. Monica quickly responded, saying:
“This was horrifying. This was scary movie, like get the mask out. This is the realization of everything the Nets were supposed to be last year.”
The trio of James Harden, Kevin Durant and Irving formed last season, but due to injuries the three of them were not together as much. Irving even picked up an injury in the playoffs, leaving the heavy lifting in the hands of Durant and Harden. Now that they’re together, games like these could become a common occurrence.
“Look, the offense is a given. James Harden, Kevin Durant – top scoring duo in the league right now. And then you throw in Kyrie Irving and all that he brings to the table; the scoring is a given.”
The 138-112 win in Chicago was all heart for the Nets’ role players. With Harden and Durant combining for 52 points, Kessler Edwards, Blake Griffin and DeAndre’ Bembry were defensively active. The Nets made eleven steals, not hesitating to throw their bodies on the floor. McNutt indicated she feels the unit is coming together, saying:
“What most impresses me, Jay (Williams), is what they’re doing defensively and the way that these role guys have continued to emerge – Kessler Edwards, Cam Thomas. Not that you need a ton from them, but they are in exactly the right place. They’re learning day-to-day alongside of these superstars.”
Brooklyn was effective in limiting DeMar DeRozan’s contribution, as he ended with only 19 points, shooting 43.8%. Nikola Vucevic made only five of his 13 shots as the Nets defense was relentless. McNutt acknowledged the Nets’ defensive effort, saying:
“So to me, you talk about this team leveling up on the defensive end and putting it together – I thought the Brooklyn Nets were good with or without Kyrie. With Kyrie, OH MY GOODNESS!!”
After making his return against the Indiana Pacers, Irving has faced off against the Portland Trail Blazers and Chicago Bulls. Although he had a poor shooting night against the Bulls, he made his presence felt in other areas. In 25 minutes, Irving logged nine points, four rebounds and three assists.
The Nets have two home games coming up before going on a four-game road trip starting with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving will try to capitalize on this stretch of games to get his rhythm in order. The Nets, on paper, are one of the best teams right now, but fans will have to wait to see how this translates on the floor.