Nets Notes: Kevin Durant Taking Over the Playoffs

The final buzzers and tip-offs are mere pauses in Kevin Durant’s playoffs. With the Nets up 2-0 on the Milwaukee Bucks after Monday night’s 125-86 win at Barclays Center, it’s been seven games flawlessly flowing into one another, a non-stop stream of the NBA’s most lethal, unstoppable scorer.

The latest display was 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting, 4-of-6 from 3-point range, plus six assists as the Nets sliced through the Bucks with ease as they continue to push new limits for offensive basketball. Through seven games, the Nets have an offensive rating of 125.8 points per 100 possessions, leaving their regular season record offensive rating of 117.3 to look like just a nice start.

At the center of it has been Durant, particularly against the Bucks with James Harden out. In Game 1, Durant delivered a third-quarter dagger — seven straight points to close out a 12-2 Brooklyn run and push the Nets’ lead to 16 points in the final minute of the quarter. He finished up with 29 points and 10 rebounds.

On Monday, Durant had 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting by halftime as the Nets led by as many as 27 points in the first half.

“He is just letting the game come to him and he's playing it so effortlessly and we're so used to seeing Kevin do that,” said Kyrie Irving. “So, wherever you put him in the ranking of the best players ever — or the best players playing our game or whatever. For us, it's historians of the game here in terms of the culture we protect here in terms of brotherhood, and the respect we have, we're just seeing him just continue to get better. And I know that sounds crazy, but it is just slow for him. The game is so slow. He is able to get to his spot and raise up over anyone and when you have a 6-11 or 7-footer doing those special things, it kind of eases the possessions for us. And when you're able to do that, it creates some problems for the opposition because now they're playing on their heels.”

It has been a remarkable season throughout as Durant returned from missing the entire 2019-20 season following an Achilles’ tear. Signs of rust or lingering impacts of the injury were non-existent, with only a hamstring strain interrupting a brilliant season.

In the playoffs, Durant has pushed it further. He’s averaging 32.0 points on 55.0 percent shooting, including 50.0 percent from 3-point range on 5.4 attempts per game, and 91.1 percent from the free throw line. He’s leading the Nets with 7.3 rebounds per game and averaging 3.4 assists.

Nets head coach Steve Nash worked up-close with Durant for three seasons in Golden State and he’s been asked plenty of times throughout the season to measure the post-injury version of Durant against the one that led the NBA in scoring four times, was named to nine All-NBA teams, won two NBA Finals MVPs and the 2013-14 NBA MVP award.

“It's really hard to tell the difference,” said Nash. “He's not only executing at that level, but he's able to play the minutes and able to sustain such a high level of efficiency. So it's hard to say that he has any dip at this point. And his game’s picked up as we go. He's gotten more reps, more comfort, and especially defensively and on the boards and some of the things that when you're a player that hasn't played for a long time and you’re a scorer like that, you're going to focus on trying to get that back first. And so he did that. And then he started to pick up the other parts of his game. So it's very difficult to distinct distinguish him now opposed to before the surgery.”