The Brooklyn Nets’ excuses began almost immediately and were entirely valid.
“I’m not trying to be a hero out there,” Durant said after his dazzling 49-point Game 5 performance. “I know I can’t win a ballgame by myself.”
But to beat the Bucks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and avoid elimination, Durant needed to prove himself wrong and win entirely on his own. His failure to do so unmasked the one fatal flaw of an NBA superteam: injuries happen, and they are not an excuse for a loss.
Injuries are a part of sports. They are a challenge to overcome, not a narrative to fall back on. To say that a healthy Nets team would have beaten the Bucks is akin to saying that a higher-scoring Nets team would have beaten the Bucks. Sure, it’s almost certainly true. But what’s your point?
Like it or not, contrary to Durant’s opinion, basketball is all about winning on your own. Modern day greats like LeBron James and, yes, Giannis Antetokounmpo were their own superteams. Players so transcendent that the ability of their teammates was completely irrelevant.
The irony is that no recent superteam has proven capable of reaching that level of individual dominance, and Durant was involved both times. Stephen Curry could not will the Warriors to a 2019 Finals win with Durant and Klay Thompson sidelined. And now, even Durant’s 48 points in Game 7 were not enough to beat the well-rounded Bucks.
Make no mistake: Durant was nothing short of incredible during this series and was literally a big toe away from changing the outcome of the series. But to build long-term success, the Brooklyn Nets will need to find a better strategy than haphazardly stringing together All-Stars and hoping they are healthy for the playoffs.