Nothing within the first quarter indicated Kevin Durant had an all-time efficiency in him.
By the point 48 minutes elapsed in Sport 5 between the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, Durant had produced top-of-the-line playoff performances in NBA historical past.
However these points might be erased when one of many recreation’s finest ever does this: 49 factors, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and two blocks. He made 16 of his 23 pictures, 4 of 9 3-pointers and 13 of his 16 free throws in an unimaginable show of effectivity.
The Nets deflated the Bucks with a 114-108 victory on Tuesday, taking a 3-2 lead of their Jap Convention semifinal collection.
Durant recorded his second profession playoff triple-double and have become the primary participant in NBA historical past to have at the least 45 factors, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a playoff recreation.
Durant maintained a measured analysis of his effort.
“I didn’t take into consideration nothing however every possession,” he mentioned.”I used to be simply making an attempt to win every possession, and I didn’t take into consideration what number of factors I had or shot makes an attempt or rebounds or assists. It was extra so like, ‘Let me do what I must do every possession.’ That’s the strategy I all the time take. …
“We’ve obtained one other recreation. We’ve obtained to journey and we’ve obtained a Sport 6. I can’t have a good time as a result of we gained the sport.”
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Nets coach Steve Nash recited Durant’s stats and acknowledged the superlatives that Durant didn’t.
“Historic, historic efficiency. … It’s ridiculous what he’s in a position to do,” Nash mentioned. “We all know he’s able to nights like this, however to do it tonight — we lose Ky, James clearly is soldiering by way of his illnesses, we’re down our bodies, we’re wounded and for him to have the toughness, the mentality, that’s what makes him one of many all-time greats. It is a signature efficiency for Kevin, and it was lovely to observe.”
Lovely and a pleasure. “Massive-time gamers present up in big-time video games,” Nets ahead Jeff Inexperienced mentioned, “and that’s what he did.”
He additionally performed each minute and each second, taking a relaxation solely between quarters and through timeouts and maybe catching a breather throughout a free throw, coach’s problem or replay assessment.
“It’s not ultimate, what can I inform you, but when we didn’t play him 48, we in all probability weren’t successful,” Nash mentioned.
Then Nash tried his finest Yogi Berra soundbite: “It’s a straightforward resolution that’s very powerful to make.”
Simply two days after Brooklyn’s Sport 4 loss, Nash mentioned the Nets have been a bit too singled-minded in counting on Durant to bail them out.
In Sport 5, they needed to get the ball to Durant and let him make performs. Single-minded was the one solution to go.
How does a particular recreation take form? Durant had seven factors and 5 rebounds within the first quarter, however the Nets have been down 29-15 after one. He had 11 factors within the second quarter and 18 factors, 9 rebounds and three assists at halftime. Nonetheless, the Bucks have been up 59-43.
When are you aware one thing particular is occurring? Durant’s first factors of the third quarter — a layup — lower Milwaukee’s result in 76-62. Three consecutive assists adopted by a layup put one other dent within the deficit. He scored Brooklyn’s ultimate seven factors of the third, and the Nets have been down simply 87-81. Had 11 factors, six rebounds and 5 assists within the quarter.
There wasn’t an individual watching who didn’t sense the second percolating.
Two free throws and two 3-pointers from Durant early within the fourth gave Brooklyn a 97-96 lead. His 3-pointer with 50.5 seconds left — simply earlier than the shot clock expired — put Brooklyn up 109-105. One of many recreation’s most gifted scorers had 20 factors within the fourth, serving to the Nets safe the victory with three free throws within the ultimate 15 seconds.
Like Nash mentioned, it’s not precisely a shock coming from a two-time NBA Finals MVP and one-time regular-season MVP. But it surely’s additionally memorable as a result of Durant ruptured his Achilles tendon within the 2019 Finals, missed final season and returned this season solely to have his yr interrupted by accidents and COVID-19 well being and security protocols.
Was Sport 5 on Tuesday his finest playoff efficiency? Higher than 43 factors, 13 rebounds and 7 assists in opposition to the Cleveland Cavaliers within the 2018 Finals? Higher than the 50 factors he dropped on the Los Angeles Clippers in 2019?
“I don’t rank performances,” he mentioned. “As soon as they occur, I simply transfer on and take a look at do it once more. But it surely was a enjoyable recreation to be part of, and there’s a whole lot of video games in my profession that I felt prefer it was simply as enjoyable. I’m certain once I replicate on it, we will discuss it then. However for now, it was nice that we obtained the W.”
Observe Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.
This text initially appeared on USA TODAY: Kevin Durant saves Nets’ season in opposition to Bucks with recreation for the ages