Kevin Durant reacts after gaining and maintaining possession in tonight’s game. Photo by the author.
By Terrance Turner
June 15, 2021
Kevin Durant played every minute of tonight’s playoff match between the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. The series was tied, 2-2; the Nets were considered underdogs, despite winning the first two games of the series. But tonight, in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the Nets prevailed. After trailing by sixteen in the first half, Brooklyn roared back in the second. Anchored by a magisterial performance by Durant — who scored 49 points and had a triple-double — the Nets won, 114-108.
The game started with question marks over Nets players. Kyrie Irving was out due to an ankle injury; James Harden was battling a hamstring injury. He was listed as questionable before the game but played anyway — “thuggin’ it out”, as Durant later described it. Harden played 22 minutes without scoring a single point. Brooklyn went up 2-0 on the first possession, but Milwaukee dominated throughout the first half. They took a 9-2 lead, which mushroomed into a 19-6 lead after a basket from Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Bucks continued to outscore the Nets throughout the first and second quarters. Their lead grew from 12 to 14 and then 16 as the second quarter got underway. Antetokounmpo continued to shine, blocking shots by opponents and driving to the basket on shot after shot. The Bucks led 59-43 at the half.
They maintained a lead early in the third quarter, expanding their advantage to 17 points. Milwaukee led 71-54 in the 3rd, with 7:25 remaining. But then Brooklyn went on a 17-5 run, with Harden finally landing a floater, Jeff Green hitting one three-pointer after another, and Durant serving as the offensive engine for his team. Their efforts, along with strong supporting play by Blake Griffin, revived the Nets. They steadily chipped away at the Bucks’ lead, which was 87-81 when the fourth quarter began.
Then Durant launched into overdrive, launching a three to make it 89-86. Minutes later he hurled an assist to Brown. And then, with 8:36 left, Durant drained a three to put Brooklyn ahead by one. It was the Nets’ first time leading since the start of the game! Milwaukee briefly pulled ahead, but Brooklyn fired right back, turning the fourth quarter into a nail-biting back-and-forth showdown. It was 99-98 Bucks when Durant hit yet another three to regain the lead. It was 102-98, with five minutes left.
Less than two minutes later, Green hit a three to make it 104-100.The Bucks came back to tie it. But as the clock ticked under one minute — with just 50 seconds left and the shot clock expiring — Durant drilled a three-pointer to make it 109-105. The Bucks got in foul trouble late, with P.J. Tucker accidentally poking Harden in the eye during a possession. Harden fell to the ground but was helped back up. Later, Durant managed a steal when Antetokounmpo lost the ball and was then fouled when Bucks tried to wrest the ball from him.
Durant’s free throw(s) put the Nets ahead by four. It was 111-107 with 15 seconds left. Giannis drove to the basket but was fouled, going 1 for 2 at the free-throw line. (Free throws have been an issue for him throughout this series.) The rebound ended up in the hands of Kevin Durant. He was swarmed by Bucks trying to take the ball from him. But they fouled him instead. Durant missed one free throw but made the other to make it 112-108.
With just 11.5 seconds remaining, the Bucks had to make a play. But Khris Middleton missed a three-pointer, and Nets player Landry Shamet got the rebound. Antetokounampo fouled out after fouling Shamet. Shamet’s successful free throws sealed the game for Brooklyn. The Nets won, 114-108.
Jeff Green finished with 27 points; Blake Griffin ended with 17. But it was Kevin Durant who powered the Nets to their comeback win. He scored 49 points, racking up 17 rebounds and 10 assists. And he did it while playing every minute of tonight’s playoff game — the first player to do so since LeBron James in 2018.
According to ESPN, Durant led the Nets in minutes, points, steals, and blocks. His incredible performance brought a stagnant Brooklyn offense to surging, sparkling life. The Nets won Game 5. They now lead the series 3-2. Game 6 will take place in Milwaukee on Thursday.