Kevin Durant has been called soft multiple times through his career, but he just put on a performance that even his greatest detractors won’t be able to criticize.
In a crucial Game 5, with Kyrie Irving out and James Harden making a surprise return but looking less than 100%, Durant took the Brooklyn Nets on his shoulders and carried them to a big 114-108 comeback victory against the Milwaukee Bucks that gives them a 3-2 series advantage.
Durant’s stat line was mind-boggling in itself, a triple-double of 49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks with only 3 turnovers. He shot 16 of 23 from the field, 4 of 9 from deep, and 13 of 16 from the free throw line.
As impressive as that was, it’s even crazier that he played every single minute of the game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone play all four quarters without a break before, and considering that this is his comeback year from a ruptured Achilles, it’s impossible to come away from that performance without being impressed.
The Nets did get a big boost when Harden decided to return, and he also played a crazy 46 minutes while coming back from a re-aggravated hamstring injury, but he wasn’t himself as he shot 1 of 10 from the floor, 0 of 8 from deep, and 3 of 3 from the charity stripe. Harden still found ways to contribute with 5 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists while turning it over 4 times, but today’s victory laid on the shoulders of Durant and someone he has an even longer history with than Harden.
Not everyone may remember, but Kevin Durant and Jeff Green were part of the same 2007 draft class, where Durant was picked second by the Seattle Supersonics. Green was the fifth pick in that draft, originally chosen by the Boston Celtics but then traded to the Sonics in a package that sent Ray Allen and Glen Davis to the Celtics in exchange for Green, Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak.
The two draft mates could never have imagined that 14 years later, they’d be together on the court in a pivotal game. Green’s 27 points on 8 of 11 shooting (7 of 8 from deep) played another important role in the win, as did Blake Griffin’s 17 points on 7 of 11 from the field and 3 of 6 from three.
With his teammates providing great support, that deserves credit on its own, Durant was able to show us why he’s a former league MVP, a former two-time Finals MVP, and one of the brightest basketball talents of his generation.
Great players show up when it matters, and that’s exactly what Durant did. By carrying his team to this comeback, where the Bucks led by as many as 17, he’ll have also provided a back-breaking blow to Milwaukee’s morale – who answered Durant’s assault by choking under the pressure.
KD is probably going to sit in an ice bath for two hours after the post game presser. The man deserves it. Now he’s guaranteed that the Nets have two more shots to make the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the 2002-03 season. That, coincidentally, is also the last year the Nets made the NBA Finals before bowing out to the San Antonio Spurs in a 4-2 series.
The man was clearly happy with himself during the post-game interview, and rightly so. Take a bow, KD. That was one for the ages.