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Brooklyn Nets' Kevin Durant Opens Season on Scoring Tear

Durant scoring with career-high efficiency and impacting game across the floor

Over a six-game homestand at for the Brooklyn Nets, it became a nightly ritual.

Kevin Durant would draw a foul, step to the line, and the chants would start to ripple across the stands at Barclays Center.

“M-V-P. M-V-P. M-V-P.”

As the Nets prepare to trade in the comfort of a six-game homestand for a six-game road trip, Durant — the 2013-14 MVP and nine-time All-NBA selection — has begun his 14th season playing some of the most efficient and impactful basketball of his career to start the 2021-22 season.

“He’s played at an incredible level,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “Both ends of the floor. His defense has been great. His rebounding. Some playmaking and scoring. Extremely efficient. Pretty important for us especially early when we’re finding ourselves.”

Through Brooklyn’s first eight games, Durant is averaging 28.3 points per game, second in the league. It’s a big number that only hints at how unstoppable Durant has been. His 59.2 field goal percentage and 66.9 true shooting percentage — a measure that factors in both free throws and the added value of 3-point makes — are career-high rates, as are his 8.6 rebounds per game. His 5.3 assists per game are in the area of his best season-long marks, but his 30.4 assist percentage — the percentage of team field goals he’s assisted on while on the floor — is another career-high rate.

“He's locked in,” said Nets forward Paul Millsap. “You see him every play, he's locked in on both ends of the court not just on the offensive end. Defensively, he's getting after it. He's fighting over screens. He's making highlight blocks, He's really focused on both ends of the basketball court. It's great to see.”

A year ago, when Durant was returning from the Achilles’ injury that cost him the 2019-20 season, Nash was cautious about asking too much of him on the defensive end as he reacclimated to the rigors of NBA competition. As the Nets have posted the league’s eighth-best defensive rating over the season’s first two weeks — allowing 104.1 points per 100 possessions compared to 113.1 last season — the full impact of a player of Durant’s 6-foot-10 length, athleticism, and experience is being felt.

“He’s been great defensively, he’s been locked in, he’s taken a lot of pride in it and led us by example with his willingness,” said Nash. “We know with his length and athleticism what a factor he can be down there, and this year, he’s been really good defensively.”

Back on the offensive end, there are stretches where the nuances of efficiency and advanced numbers fade to the background as Durant simply overpowers and overwhelms an opponent. With the Nets and Hawks tied at 75 with 4:55 go in the third quarter of Brooklyn’s 117-108 win on Thursday night, Durant scored 13 points in the decisive 20-4 run that closed the quarter, making all four of his shots from the field, including the 3-pointer with a second to go that put the Nets up 95-79.

“I just felt like the lane was open,” said Durant. “I felt like I can get to wherever I want on the floor. And it's just about me knocking down shots. And I was aggressive all night, I felt my teammates were looking for me, I think I did a solid job of playing with the ball in my hands and without it. And I could be a little better without the ball, cutting, moving off of screens a little faster, but I think I did a solid job tonight. I was just trying to take with the defense gives me.”

Durant finished with 32 points on 13-of-20 shooting with seven rebounds and five assists. He’s scored at least 20 points in all eight Brooklyn games and topped 30 points three times.

“He's our guy,” said Millsap. “He's the guy, but we feed off of him and what he does. He carries our team a lot. We kind of need him to do that. We need him to be him. The rest of us, we're still trying to figure it out, and we're still trying to catch our rhythm and our flow. When we all catch up together, it's going to hopefully be pretty special. We just need him to keep doing him.”

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