Brooklyn Boro

Kevin Durant is best in Brooklyn … and the world

Legendary performance puts Nets on brink of East Finals

June 16, 2021 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Kevin Durant didn’t need a cape or mask to turn into a superhero before the eyes of 16,067 Brooklynites at Downtown’s Barclays Center Tuesday night.

Instead, the two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player fed off the Nets’ desperation.

With Kyrie Irving sidelined by an ankle sprain, James Harden severely limited by a hamstring injury and Brooklyn down by as many as 17 points, Durant came to the rescue with one of the most epic performances in playoff history.

The best and most-decorated of the Nets’ Big Three scored 49 points, including 20 in the fateful fourth quarter, ripped down 17 rebounds and handed out 10 assists as Brooklyn rallied for an improbable 114-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“I know the perception of me is that I can score the basketball well, but any team that I’ve played on, I’ve been asked to do pretty much everything from rebounding to defending to initiating to scoring,” Durant noted.

“I might not do it all the time, but I do a little bit of everything.”

Up three games to two and going back to Milwaukee, the Nets know they were on the brink of facing elimination against the Bucks Thursday night.

Instead, they are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2003.

“Historic, historic performance,” gushed Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash, whose team appeared headed for a third consecutive playoff loss before K.D. took over.

Not only did Durant post the first-ever NBA postseason triple-double with at least 45 points, he also played the full 48 minutes, picked up three steals and blocked a pair of shots to catapult Brooklyn back into the driver’s seat in this series.

Though he was basically playing on one leg, James Harden found a way to contribute to Brooklyn’s victory in Game 5. AP Photo by Kathy Willens

“We know he’s capable of nights like this, but to do it tonight,” Nash marveled.

“We lose Ky, James obviously is going through his ailments, we’re down bodies, we’re wounded. And for him to have the toughness, that mentality, that’s what makes him one of the all-time greats. And so this is a performance that’s a signature performance for Kevin, and it was beautiful to watch.”

Not so much for the Bucks, who won two games in Milwaukee and had every chance to go home up 3-2 before Durant stole the show, and perhaps the series back for Brooklyn.

“He’s the best player in the world right now and we’ve got to beat him as a team,” Bucks star and former two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo said.

Good luck Giannis.

Now that Durant has re-asserted himself as the top player on the planet after missing all of last season due to an Achilles injury suffered during the 2019 NBA Finals as a member of the Golden State Warriors, it will take something otherworldly to stop him.

“We’ve got to guard him as a team,” Antetokounmpo insisted. “We’ve got to make him make tough shots like tonight. We’ve just got to keep doing our job and hopefully he’s going to miss.”

Durant misfired just seven times in 23 attempts from the field and buried four of his nine 3-pointers.

He went 13-for-16 from the free-throw line and helped veteran Jeff Green pile up 27 points, including seven 3-pointers, off the bench while Harden struggled to find his form.

“The Beard” suited up despite being listed as doubtful then questionable as recently as Monday.

Though he gave a valiant effort and logged 46 minutes, the former three-time scoring champion was held to five points on 1-of-10 shooting.

“I woke up and was like, ‘You know what? Let’s go,'” said Harden, who did contribute eight assists and six boards to Brooklyn’s cause.

“I tried to go out there and do the best I can. Hopefully I gave my teammates some encouragement and some life.”

Hopefully, Irving will find a way to get back on the court as well, if not Thursday then perhaps on Saturday if Milwaukee forces the series back to Barclays for a decisive Game 7.

“Everyone’s excited to get Game 5,” said Nash. “We have the lead here. And we’ve got a great opportunity to go up there and try to improve and play better and have a great game. So guys are excited.”

So are Brooklyn basketball fanatics, who couldn’t have dreamed of a better night in our fair borough after general manager Sean Marks lured Durant here two summers ago.

The Nets still don’t know if Kyrie Irving can play in Game 6 Thursday in Milwaukee. AP Photo by Morry Gash

NOTHING BUT NET: Blake Griffin put up 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting in Game 5. He was the only Brooklyn player aside from Durant and Griffin to score in double figures. … Durant’s Game 5 triple-double was just the second of his playoff career. … Though he didn’t play in Game 5, Irving did get some good news Tuesday as he received a spot on the All-NBA Third Team, marking the Nets’ first such honor since Jason Kidd made the First Team in 2004. At press time, there was no medical update on Irving for Game 6 in Milwaukee, which will tip off at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

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