Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals was easily one of the most exciting games we have seen in these Playoffs thus far, and Kevin Durant’s performance in this game was easily one of the greatest basketball spectacles the game has ever seen. The stage was set for Durant to have an epic performance with Kyrie Irving out, James Harden hobbled and the series tied at two games apiece against a reinvigorated Milwaukee Bucks team who had come off two big wins on their home court.
KD started aggressively and was feeling good early but received little help from anyone other than former OKC teammate Jeff Green, which led to the Bucks building their largest lead of the game at 17 halfway through the second quarter. We knew it would be a long night for the short-handed Nets, but what ensued was certainly more than we expected.
Sparked by a few baskets from Jeff Green and Blake Griffin, Brooklyn began to cut into the lead. Once the deficit was only six, KD did the rest. Durant finished with 49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks while hitting some tough shots and key free throws down the stretch to seal the win for the Nets. This was a monster game even by Durant’s standard as the near 50-piece is something we expect from him in a big game, but his effort on the defensive end and precision in finding his teammates are what truly stood out last night.
The most impressive stat of the day is minutes played - you'll find 48 next to Kevin Durant's name. Almost exactly two years ago, Kevin Durant had the worst injury in basketball. Last night he never subbed out from jump ball. With the pace of today’s game and the opponent they faced in the Bucks, this was truly impressive and reminded us of the last player to accomplish such a feat.
In the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron James played every single second of Game 7 on the road against a young Boston Celtics team that had acquired Kyrie Irving that offseason. The Celtics made the deep postseason without Kyrie, who was injured, but it was still an extra motivation for The King. LeBron hit some clutch shots in the fourth en route to 35 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assists, and 2 blocks, one of which was an iconic denial at the rim on Terry Rozier. This was the last time a player played every second of an NBA playoff game until last night.
In the age of load management and super teams, it is great to see superstars who are often referred to as soft, literally doing everything humanly possible to will their team to victory in must-win games. Make no mistake about it; this was a must-win situation for Brooklyn, with Game 6 being in Milwaukee. A loss today would have likely meant that the team favored to win it all would get sent on the summer vacation early at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Perhaps KD has made some moves we consider weak, but just like the all-time greats do, Durant put on a performance of a lifetime and made sure he was on the floor for every single possession of the game with their season virtually on the line. True or not, KD believes that he is better than LeBron James and deep down wants the world to believe it to be true as well. Tonight he took one step closer to showing the world why he believes that as he picked up the slack with and dominated the game alongside James Harden at fifty percent (at best) and a bunch of decent role players. The team was no longer stacked, and he delivered; if that’s not called strength, I don’t know what is.
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