Kyrie Irving was out thanks to an ankle sprain, James Harden was playing at MAYBE 40% while being hampered with a serious hamstring problem, and role players like Joe Harris continued to struggle, as they have been all series.
Durant answered the call with one of the greatest individual games anyone has ever had in the history of playoff basketball. Durant was one missed free-throw shy of 50 points in this game, and that somehow wasn’t the most impressive part of his night.
Durant supplemented his 49 points on 16-23 shooting with 17 rebounds, the second-most he has ever had in a playoff game, and 10 assists, the most he has ever had in a playoff game. With three steals and two blocks, Durant was making stops on the defensive end as well. The most impressive stat was the fact that he played all 48 minutes of this game.
While Durant has given NBA fans the pleasure of watching one of the greatest careers in NBA history, does this game really rank as his best playoff moment?
If it’s not at the very top, it’s certainly up there with some of the best.
Brooklyn Nets: Was Game 5 the best we’ve ever seen from Kevin Durant?
The game score metric, which takes into account missed shots and turnovers to give one numeric score of how impressive a particular night was, was very favorable to Durant, claiming that only two playoff games in the history of the NBA prior to Game 5 were better from a statistical point of view.
Damian Lillard had one of those two earlier in these playoffs against the Nuggets, while Charles Barkley possesses the second one, accomplished during his time with the Phoenix Suns. However, given how this was a series-turning Game 5 and the fact that he and Jeff Green were the only offensive players exceeding expectations, Durant might rank above those two.
Durant did put up 50 points once in the postseason, but it came on his stacked Golden State Warriors teams, as he brushed off the plucky, but exhausted, Los Angeles Clippers in Round 1 of the 2018-19 playoffs by hanging 50 on Doc Rivers. With his Nets outburst coming in Round 2, this one gets the edge.
The only game that comes close to Durant’s legacy game with the Nets was Game 3 of the 2017-18 NBA Finals. Durant put up 43 on 15-23 shooting while grabbing 13 rebounds, dishing out seven assists, and making some clutch 3-pointers down the stretch to sink LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Game 4 of that series was also Durant’s second career triple-double in the postseason (our recent Game 5 being the other), but he totaled just 20 points in that game. That unfortunate fact means that this performance, boosted by Durant hitting some clutch shots late, ultimately wins out and secures at least second place.
Differentiating between these two games puts us in the real gray area. KD’s Nets game was a better game, especially considering everyone knew he was getting the ball late and the Bucks (not Giannis!) still couldn’t stop him, but his Warriors game came against LeBron in the Finals. If we are grading on a curve, that might have the edge.
Given the totality of the circumstances, that Finals game in Cleveland might be the No. 1 playoff game on his resume. However, this is a firm No. 2, and it is without a doubt the best statistical performance we have ever seen from him. This is exactly what the Nets expected when they made the move to bring him in.
Now, with all due respect, do it again.