The Nets were supposed to be a super team.
But with 54 seconds left in a one-point game, Kyrie Irving was out due to injury. Playing through his own injury, James Harden held the ball 35 feet from the basket and had been stuck out there for 13 seconds against a stout Bucks defense. The shot clock had fallen to three seconds.
Finally, Kevin Durant came behind Harden to get the ball, dribbled into a closely guarded twisting 3-pointer… and sunk it.
Durant had 49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and two blocks while playing all 48 minutes to lead Brooklyn to a 114-108 Game 5 win over Milwaukee Tuesday.
The first 45-15-10 playoff game in NBA history, Durant’s legendary performance gave the Nets a 3-2 lead in the second-round series. Teams in Brooklyn’s position in a best-of-seven series – holding home-court advantage, up 3-2 entering a road Game 6 – have won the series 91% of the time, including 52% of the time in Game 6. Nets-Bucks Game 6 is Thursday in Milwaukee.
Durant was just brilliant tonight. He made 16-of-23 shots and drew 10 fouls. He was too quick for P.J. Tucker and too tall for Pat Connaughton, who curiously spent a lot of time guarding the superstar forward.
Missing from the list of defenders who spent significant time on Durant: Giannis Antetokounmpo, continuing a theme. At least Antetokounmpo said he wanted to guard Durant more in Game 6.
Not that Durant was completely a one-man show.
Jeff Green scored 27 points on 7-of-8 3-point shooting. He also helped defend Antetokounmpo
Though he posted impressive individual numbers, Antetokounmpo (34 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocks) came undone down the stretch.
With the game tied and 1:45 left, Antetokounmpo let Harden – a personal rival – force him into a missed fadeaway:
Then, with the Bucks down two and 16 seconds left, Antetokounmpo bobbled a pass for a turnover:
Antetokounmpo also missed 2-of-4 free throws in the final two minutes.
It just creates complications when the team’s best player isn’t a go-to scorer. Milwaukee needed more late from Khris Middleton (25 points) and Jrue Holiday (19 points).
Brooklyn had a clearer vision – especially once Harden asserted himself.
Hobbled, Harden looked like just a cog in the offense early. He scored just five points on 1-of-10 shooting in 46 minutes. The Nets fell behind by 17 points in the third quarter.
But Harden is still best with the ball in his hands. He took more control as a passer, helping spark Brooklyn’s comeback and finishing with eight assists.