But then came a legendary performance from Kevin Durant, who played all 48 minutes of a pivotal Game 5 to register an epic triple-double featuring 49 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists. He went 16-of-23 from the field and 13-of-16 from the free throw line.
And that was the difference in the Nets’ come-from-behind 114-108 victory to claim a 3-2 series lead against the Milwaukee Bucks.
What else did we learn? Giannis Antetokounmpo is no match for KD and the Bucks are pretty much dead in the water.
Kevin Durant delivered an historic performance to lift the Brooklyn Nets.
Look at the box score all you want. Giannis’ 34-point, 12-rebound performance hardly told the story. He took terrible shots down the stretch that cost his team. He committed a costly turnover because he couldn’t handle an exchange. He’s a former Defensive Player of the Year and two-time MVP that for some reason wasn’t guarding Durant when it mattered most.
Giannis also missed a much-needed free throw late in the fourth and let Harden put him off-balance in the post.
These superstars aren’t comparable. Durant can single-handedly dig his team out from the grave by scoring in a myriad of ways and defending the best opposing player on the court. Giannis, with his team up 16, couldn’t preserve a lead when almost every capable Nets player was bricking shots and then couldn’t help his team keep pace when Brooklyn climbed out of a hole and started firing on all cylinders.
He couldn’t beat the Nets without two of their best players. Harden taking the floor on Tuesday night was nothing but a decoy. He was clearly hobbled by his injured hamstring.
Durant is simply way more dynamic than Giannis and the difference in skill set is astronomical. The Bucks don’t have anyone as multi-dimensional on their roster, and you could argue Irving and Harden are more valuable given their ability to score, distribute and remain collected in crunch time.
But this one’s all about KD. The Bucks and Giannis paved the way for him to deliver an instant classic and they couldn’t do a thing about it. And Giannis didn’t step forward to take charge and prevent it from going any further.
Milwaukee now has to go 2-0 in order to advance after Durant demoralized Mike Budenholzer’s squad. The Nets have the mental edge, too, and it’s clear the Bucks have struggled in that regard for a while now, and it’s perhaps even more evident Giannis isn’t “the guy” to lift them out of this.