Kevin Durant Triple-Doubles as Nets Win Game 5 vs. Giannis, Bucks in Harden’s Return
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Not even the absence of Kyrie Irving could stop the Brooklyn Nets from winning at home in their second-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Brooklyn overcame a 17-point deficit and seized a 3-2 lead with a 114-108 victory in Tuesday’s pivotal Game 5 at Barclays Center. Kevin Durant was brilliant and led the way for the Nets, who are one win away from their first trip to the conference finals since the 2002-03 season.
Solid showings from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday weren’t enough for the Bucks, who now must win two in a row to advance to their second Eastern Conference Finals in three years.
Notable Player Stats
- Kevin Durant, F, BKN: 49 PTS, 17 REB, 10 AST, 3 STL, 2 BLK
- Jeff Green, F, BKN: 27 PTS, 3 AST, 7-of-8 3PT
- Blake Griffin, F, BKN: 17 PTS, 3 REB
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, MIL: 34 PTS, 12 REB, 4 AST, 2 BLK
- Khris Middleton, F, MIL: 25 PTS, 5 AST, 4 REB
- Jrue Holiday, G, MIL: 19 PTS, 8 AST, 3 REB
Durant Takes Over During Legendary Showing
The Nets may have the most talent in the entire league on paper, but Irving, James Harden and Durant played just eight games together during the regular season. It’s been more of the same in the playoffs with Harden (hamstring) missing the first four against the Bucks and Irving (ankle) sitting out Tuesday’s contest.
Still, the return of Harden figured to be a significant boost and meant Durant wouldn’t have to shoulder as much of the offensive responsibility as the only one of the three stars on the floor.
Instead, things were disjointed from the start. Brooklyn managed a measly 15 points in the first quarter as Harden failed to find his shot and turned it over multiple times. He also settled for outside looks and wasn’t in attack mode, which indicated he wasn’t feeling 100 percent.
Turns out, Durant did need to be the brightest star even with Harden on the floor.
He did a little bit of everything to keep the Nets within striking distance during their abysmal first half by aggressively seeking out his shot, battling for boards and impressing on the defensive end. Jeff Green and Blake Griffin also provided critical secondary scoring as the home team came charging back in the third quarter to put itself in position to win.
Durant fully shifted into takeover mode from there and gave his side the lead with an array of pullups and threes. He was also a willing facilitator and the best rebounder on the floor as he put the game squarely on his back while playing every minute in an incredible performance.
It was fitting, then, that the future Hall of Famer drilled a ridiculous off-balance three to push the lead to four in the last minute and then helped ice the win on the line. It was a legendary playoff performance and one that will not soon be forgotten if the Nets do win the championship.
Giannis, Bucks Collapse Down the Stretch
This series looked hopeless for the Bucks when they lost by 39 points in Game 2 to fall down 2-0 even though Harden had yet to play.
Rather than fold against a team loaded with starpower, Milwaukee grinded out a defensive slugfest in Game 3 and maintained momentum in Game 4 on both ends of the floor. It was more of the same out of the gates Tuesday as the defense held Harden scoreless in the first half and swarmed to shooters on the perimeter.
Antetokounmpo was also ruthlessly efficient while driving the lane and even hit a three-pointer, while Middleton and Holiday each connected on multiple threes. Throw in Pat Connaughton providing a spark off the bench, and the visitors were up by 16 at the half and seemingly in control.
Although Harden wasn’t himself and Irving was sidelined, it was just a matter of time before Brooklyn went on a run even, though Milwaukee delayed it with Brook Lopez hitting three-pointers, Middleton attacking and Holiday facilitating.
Even with that run, the Bucks had the chance to respond and put the Nets on the brink of elimination as they entered the fourth quarter with a six-point lead. It was also a golden opportunity to make a statement as a title contender and move past some of the criticism they received for an ugly second-round loss to the Miami Heat last season.
The collapse was all the more painful for the Bucks with that as the backdrop.
The fourth quarter was a rotating door of mistakes, as the defense had no answer for Durant and Antetokounmpo forced the issue with an ill-advised pullup three and fadeaway over an injured Harden. He also couldn’t handle a pass around the rim down two in the final seconds and missed multiple free throws in the last two minutes before fouling out.
The series returns to Milwaukee for Game 6 Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET.
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