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Kevin Durant puts on historic performance to lead Nets past Bucks in Game 5, 114-108

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“I’m Kevin Durant. You know who I am.”

Yes, he is. And yes, we do.

It was a playoff game for the ages that came down to the wire and took one of the all-time great playoff performances from Kevin Durant to seal the Nets win in Game 5, a 114-108 victory. With the win, Brooklyn takes a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 in Milwaukee Thursday night.

“I didn’t think about nothing but just each possession. I just tried to win each possession and I didn’t think about how many points I had or shot attempts, rebounds, assists. It was more so let me do what I need to do each possession. That’s the approach I always take and I was able to rack up some points,” said Kevin Durant on his Game 5 performance. “I played every minute so that helped with my point total but for the most part, I just tried to stay engaged on the defensive side of the ball all game.”

The Nets entered Game 5 down one superstar [Kyrie Irving] and with another, James Harden, playing with through right hamstring tightness.

“It’s the playoffs and my team needed me, it’s simple,” said James Harden about playing through the injury.

With their backs against the wall, a lot was asked from Durant. He delivered a performance for the ages, the greatest single game in the history of the franchise ... period.

The Nets superstar finished with one of the NBA’s great playoff performances: 49 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists on 16-of-23 shooting from the field and 4-of-9 from three to go with three steals and two blocks. He even had three steals and two blocks. The Nets superstar played all 48 minutes and became the only player in NBA history to record a triple-double of 45+ points, 15+ rebounds and 10+ assists in a playoff game.

“Historic, historic performance. He played the entire game. He barely missed, got to the line, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals, and two blocks. It’s ridiculous what he’s able to do. We know he’s capable of nights like this but to do it tonight; we lose Kai, James is soldering through his ailments. We’re down bodies. We’re wounded and for him to have the toughness and that mentality, that’s what makes him one of the all-time greats,” said Steve Nash on Durant’s Game 5 performance. “This is a signature performance for Kevin and it was beautiful to watch.”

Outside of his legendary performance, playing a full 48-minute game was something the Nets head coach didn’t find ideal but admitted if his superstar played any less, the outcome of the game would be different.

“What can I tell you. It’s not ideal but if we didn’t play him 48, we probably weren’t winning tonight so it's a tough decision. It’s an easy decision that’s very tough to make and I hate to put him in that position but we talked through the game with him. [We] tried to find some different times to get timeouts and give him the spell but we just had so much stuff thrown at us. We’re taking a few risks here.”

When Durant was asked where the Game 5 performance ranks among his best throughout his NBA career, he doesn’t process performances like that unless he looks back on it in the future.

“To be honest, I don’t even rank or look at performances. Once they happen, I just try to move on and see if I can do it again,” Durant said. “It was a fun game to be a part of. There are a lot of games in my career that I felt were just as fun. I’m sure when I reflect on it, we can talk about it then but now it was great that we got the W.”

While Durant was the soul of the Nets machine, James Harden provided the heart. The Nets guard — who wasn’t expected to play in Game 5 — wound up playing 46 minutes and finished with five points, eight assists and six rebounds in the win.

“He played 46 minutes. Just shows how much he loves to play. I was a little nervous for him because he hasn’t played in a while and this is a physical team and his hamstring is one of those injuries that takes a while to heal. He came out there and toughed it out.”

Brooklyn overcame 17-point deficits in the second and entered the fourth quarter trailing by six points. That’s when Durant put all of Brooklyn on his back. The Nets took their first lead since the opening minute (94-93) at the 7:54 mark after back-to-back threes from Durant.

“It took us a while before we can find some cohesion. We were fortunate enough to have the toughness to stick with it. We kept telling them to stick with it and they found a little bit of cohesion at the right time and we went on a roll,” said Nash on the early play in the fourth.

The Nets entered their most important 60 seconds in the Brooklyn era leading 106-105 when Durant nailed an impossible off-balance 26-foot three with 51 seconds left to grow the margin to 109-105. Milwaukee answered with a quick slam from Brook Lopez but it wasn’t enough, not with KD on the court.

Despite Durant missing a dagger three on the next possession, Brooklyn snagged a key stop by Jeff Green with 15.6 seconds remaining. Green, who set a Nets playoff record with 27 points off the bench, forced Khris Middleton to foul Durant. KD went on to hit three of four free throws and Landry Shamet — nine points in 28 minutes off the bench — hit two big free throws to ice the game and send 16,067 Nets fans into a delirium. Kevin Durant had taken fans from shook to numb.

“Jeff Green was unbelievable. Incredible performance and kept us in the game for long stretches of it where it could’ve got away from us or we weren’t playing well. He didn’t miss for a long, long time and kept us in it. Kevin’s performance was historic, but Jeff’s ones that kept us in the game for a long, long time,” said Nash on Green’s performance in Game 5.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 34 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in 42 minutes of play. The Bucks star went 14-of-22 from the field and 2-of-4 from three. Jrue Holiday gave Milwaukee a good punch with 19 points, eight assists and three rebounds followed by Pat Connaughton off the bench with 10 points in 32 minutes of play in the loss. Brook Lopez finished with 15.

The start wasn’t what the Nets had hoped for. After an emotional introduction of Harden, Milwaukee opened the contest hitting four of their first seven shots and playing tight defense to forge an early 12-2 lead. In the opening span, Brooklyn appeared tentative on the offensive end. They made only one of their first eight shots, going 0-of-5 from three, all despite finding quality looks.

The Bucks didn’t shy from being physical on Harden — who was clearly not 100 percent. Holiday guarded Harden very tightly for the full length of the court but the strategy also resulted in two early fouls for the Bucks guard

Brooklyn concluded the first frame with arguably the worst offensive performance of the season, scoring 15 points with Durant (seven) and Green (eight) being the only Nets to put points on the board. To make matters worse, the team shot 20 percent from the field and 15.4 percent from three to trail 29-15 heading into the second. (Not typos.)

Milwaukee remained in the driver's seat in the second despite Brooklyn getting some shots to fall early. The Nets forged a small 6-0 run off a pair of threes from Harris and Griffin, but the Bucks responded quickly to hold a 42-31 lead with 7:16 remaining. Although Brooklyn hanged around for the remainder of the second, the consistency didn’t follow.

The Bucks — who played a solid but often puzzling two quarters of basketball — hit the break nursing a 59-43 advantage. While Milwaukee’s “Big Three” combined for 41 of their 59 first-half points, the team shot 53.7 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three and dominated the paint (24-10). Meanwhile, the Nets couldn’t buy big buckets from anyone else not named Durant (18 points on 6-of-10 shooting) and Green (15 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 3-of-3 from deep) off the bench.

The Bucks used their commanding lead as a comforter to find open looks and be patient on the offensive end early in the third while the Nets continued to struggle to find a flow. Harden got his first basket at the 7:21 mark of the third off a nifty and-one, but collective stops were needed and were missing. After a 24-foot three from Lopez on the other end, Milwaukee went up 74-54 with 7:03 remaining in the third but the Bucks began to fumble midway through the third.

Then, things started to change in favor of Brooklyn and the crowd sensed it. The offense began to find their long-awaited rhythm, going on a 12-5 run — from a pair of threes hit from Griffin, Green and Landry Shamet — to cut the deficit to single-digits (76-68) at the 4:53 mark. Brooklyn went on to continue to gather momentum — forging a 17-8 run and hitting eight straight shots — before a straight-away three from Antetokounmp off a poor offensive possession snapped the hot stretch.

Although not being able to capitalize at the buzzer with Harris air-balling a heavily contested three, Brooklyn hit the final 12 minutes of play trailing 87-81 and then Durant put on a fourth-quarter performance that the NBA will talk about for decades. It was that great. Brooklyn prevailed in the pivotal Game 6 to take a 3-2 series lead.

The Film Room

All-timer.

All-timer.

That’s what we got from Kevin Durant on Tuesday night. He rescued broken plays, torched the Bucks drop coverage, made the perfect reads in the pick-and-roll to the guards. He even grabbed the final board of the game to put his rebounding total to 17(!!).

“His scoring is unbelievable, obviously, he shot pretty efficient. But his playmaking,” explained James Harden. “Once he got to his spots, the second defender came over, helped, he made the right decision a majority of the time if not every time. That’s the improvement in his game right there. He’s not just a scorer, he’s able to make plays and let the game come to him. He’s one of a kind.”

It was one of the best playoff performances since maybe LeBron James’ Game 1 in the 2018 NBA Finals. Again, an all-timer.

“Kevin’s game was just unbelievable. He was unphased the entire game, especially in that second half. He started to take his time, he started to get to his spots,” said James Harden. “I seen Kevin direct people where he wanted them to be. Once he gets that and once he gets in the zone, it’s hard to stop him. We fed off that.”

Apologies, there won’t be much analysis tonight, because what more is there really to say than “this is not normal?”

Pat Connaughton on a switch? Too small. Pull-up three.

Heck, even when the Bucks threw two defenders his way, Durant drove into the condensed painted area to toss up impossible runners.

When Durant gets downhill, leveraging his pull-up scoring skillset, there’s just not much you can do as a defense.

It’s tough to say there is anyone doing it better in the NBA right now.

“The injuries that he’s been through, even from the Achilles to the hamstring, to get back in this position, the world is witnessing, once again, who the best player in the world is,” said Jeff Green.

Indeed, Uncle Jeff. Indeed.

Milestone Watch

Where to begin...

  • Kevin Durant is the first player in NBA Playoff history to record 45+ points, 15+ rebounds and 10+ assists. Other players Players with 40+ points, 15+ rebounds and 10+ assists in a playoff game in NBA Playoff history: Luka Doncic, Charles Barkley, Oscar Robertson.
  • Durant’s 49 points were the most in Nets NBA Playoff history. Vince Carter tallied 43 points in Game 3 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Miami on May 12, 2006. All other Nets in the franchise’s NBA history have combined for two 40-point games.
  • Durant has now registered three straight double-doubles in a single playoff series, tying a personal record he established in Oklahma City in 2013.
  • Durant scored or assisted 74 of the Nets’ 114 points tonight (65 percent).
  • Jeff Green’s 27 points are the most points scored by a Net off the bench in a game in franchise playoff history. His seven 3-pointers were a career high and established a new playoff high for the franchise off the bench.
  • AND THIS...

They knew!

Around the league, current and former NBA players offered their assessments of Durant’s game for the ages ... including one of the Nets.

Did someone say Rucker Park Durant? Yes, there’s video of KD’s second best performance in New York City. Enjoy.

An appropriate farewell to Brooklyn’s own

During the game, the Nets honored Marv Albert who called games for the Nets on YES for six years. Albert is retiring after the playoffs following six decades behind the mic. The short ceremony was covered live on TNT.

Contrast that classy sendoff to the lack of anything from the Knicks during his last call at the Garden. James Dolan, who fired Albert for criticizing the Knicks, did nothing to honor the team’s long-time voice and the GOAT. Good to see Marv get to call one of the great games ever in New York City.

Albert also took note of the crowd in Brooklyn where he was born 80 years ago.

“The decibel level is the highest I’ve EVER SEEN here in Brooklyn,” he said late in the game. Still got it.

All-NBA revenge?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, he missed a lot of games, but Kevin Durant IS the best player of basketball on the planet ... and the best player who didn’t make the All-NBA teams. Was his performance a subtle reminder of the All-NBA snub? Maybe, maybe not, but Joe Tsai certainly noted the absence of the player Giannis Antetokounmpo called “the player in the world.”

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

The Nets will hit the road and return to action on Thursday, June 16 when the team plays a win-or-go-home Game 6 against the Bucks. The game is scheduled to tip at 8:30 PM ET and will be nationally televised on TNT.

“We got our work cut out for us for Game 6. It’s going to be the toughest game of the year,” said Kevin Durant after the Game 5 win.

For a different perspective, check out Brew Hoop — our sister site covering the Bucks. You won’t find a happy group there.