Nets 114, Bucks 108: Kevin Durant Leads Brooklyn With Historic Triple-Double
Nets come back from 17-point deficit as Durant finishes with 49 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists
Kevin Durant delivered a game for the ages as the Brooklyn Nets etched a playoff classic at Barclays Center on Tuesday night.
The stakes were high — a 3-2 lead on the line in Game 5 of the best-of-seven series — and the obstacles were stacked. The Nets came in without Kyrie Irving. James Harden was a go at the last minute, playing for the first time in more than a week. And then they fell behind by 17 points.
Durant picked up all that weight and drove the Nets to the finish in a 114-108 win before an electrified Brooklyn crowd. With 49 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists, the second playoff triple-double of Durant’s storied career was unprecedented in NBA history — the first player with at least 45 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists in a playoff game.
“Historic, historic performance,” said Nash. “He played the entire game, he barely missed, he got to line, 17 rebounds, ten assists, three steals, two blocks. I mean, 49 points, I mean it's ridiculous what he's able to do. I think…we know he’s capable of nights like this, but to do it tonight, 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.”
While playing all 48 minutes, Durant shot 16-for-23 overall, 4-for-9 from 3-point range, and 13-for-16 from the foul line. With the Nets down 16 points midway through the third quarter, Durant scored 31 points in the second half and 20 in the fourth quarter. Durant tied the game at 91 with two free throws, then put the Nets ahead for the first time since the opening minute with a 3-pointer, and then put them ahead for good with another three 40 seconds later.
Over the second half, the Nets shot 64.9 percent overall and 47.6 percent from 3-point range and outscored the Bucks 71-49, including 33-21 in the fourth quarter.
“I just told guys to slow down," said Harden. "Like, defensively we were pretty solid. I think the first quarter, 29 points, second quarter, 30 points, so it wasn’t really necessarily our defense, it was our offense. We had 15 points and 28 points. We weren’t creating or generating any really good shots. It was like here and there, here and there, here and there. Like, we’re really good offensively to where we need to slow down and generate some really good shots, like every possession, and we started doing that. Obviously Kevin got going, but just even going forward, we were pressing, we were pressing, we were pressing. Slow down, we’re ok, we’ll be good. And in that second half I think we did that from everybody. Obviously Kevin got going but from everybody I think we settled into the game, got our matchups wherever we wanted and just do what we did.”
Harden, out since the opening minute of Game 1 with a hamstring strain, went from out, to doubtful, to questionable, to available over 24 hours and then played 46 minutes with eight assists and six rebounds. Blake Griffin scored 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
But when the Nets were looking for rhythm early on — they shot 35 percent in the first half — they had Jeff Green holding things together. Green set a playoff career high with seven 3-pointers on eight attempts and finished with 27 points while shooting 8-for-11 overall. He had the first three of those 3-pointers and 15 points in the first half.
“It's big-time, big-time confidence booster,” said Green of the win. “It shows that we can hunker down on the defensive end when we need to and make plays on the offensive end. Everybody. The way we fought through the whole game, we just stuck with it. We kept chipping away. We didn't allow their runs to give us bad body language or put us in a bad mood. We kept fighting and that's what it's about. We showed a lot of character tonight.”
Without Green’s early shooting, Brooklyn’s 16-point halftime deficit might have been too much to overcome. The Bucks grabbed the lead quickly with an early 12-0 run and the Nets opened the game making just two of their first 15 shots, including 1-for-10 from 3-point range, falling behind 29-15 at the end of the first quarter.
The Nets got going early in the second quarter with consecutive 3-pointers from Durant and Green. Brooklyn closed within nine points and made seven of its first 13 shots in the quarter, including 4-of-7 3-pointers. Durant’s baseline jumper made it 42-33 with seven minutes to go in the half, but the Bucks outscored the Nets 17-10 the rest of the quarter to go into halftime up 59-43.
Trailing 76-60 midway through the third quarter, the Nets ran off eight straight points — a Durant drive followed by 3-pointers from Green and Landry Shamet — that quickly cut the lead in half. When Harden found Joe Harris on a backdoor cut to the rim the Nets were within five — 79-74 with just under three minutes to go in the quarter. Durant’s three-point play closed the quarter and made it 87-81 going into the fourth.
Brooklyn evened the game with a 10-2 run in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, starting with consecutive Durant jumpers. Shamet hit a long jumper, Durant fed Bruce Brown underneath, and Durant made two free throws to tie the game at 91 with 9:13 remaining. After Giannis Antetokounmpo scored for Milwaukee, Durant gave the Nets their first lead since the opening minutes with a 3-pointer. Another Durant three and Shamet’s drive to the rim had Brooklyn up 99-96 with 6:14 remaining.
With the Nets up 99-98, Durant dropped in a faceup mid-range jumper for a 101-98 lead. Green’s 3-pointer made it 104-100 Nets with 3:41 remaining. After the Bucks tied the game at 104, Harden made two free throws with 1:27 to go in the game. Durant then beat the shot clock with a top-of-the-key 3-pointer for a 109-105 lead with 50.7 seconds left. With 15.3 seconds remaining, Durant made two free throws for a 111-107 lead.
“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. Obviously we struggled for large parts, a lot of things going on, trying to balance so many things amongst our group that are just difficult. And so we had a tough start; we even had a tough start to the second half. And we kind of implored them to do what we've preached to them all year, and they started to find it. They defended the last 15 minutes of the game. So I'd say incredibly well. And we started to find a little more understanding offensively.”