They don’t hand out rings for the kind of game Kevin Durant had Tuesday night. But they do write history.
And chisel statues. And craft legacies.
Hall of Famer Bill Russell didn’t show up with the trophy they named after him in the wake of Durant’s performance for the ages, because he and his Brooklyn teammates aren’t even halfway to the 16 victories it takes to emerge on top from the postseason. Still, NBA greatness can shine through at any point in the playoffs with the right combination of circumstances, urgency and achievement.
When the challenge and the response line up the way they did for Durant in Game 5 of the Nets’ Eastern Conference semifinals series against Milwaukee, well, it’s like that line in the old Western: When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
Durant etched his name among some of the league’s most impressive and memorable individual nights ever, carrying Brooklyn to its 114-108 victory and a 3-2 series lead over the Bucks. With his numbers alone – 49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals, two blocks and 16-of-23 shooting – he broke new ground.
No one in history – not Michael Jordan, not LeBron James, not Wilt Chamberlain, not anyone else – ever put up at least 45 points, 15 boards and 10 assists in an NBA playoff game.
Yet it was so much more than statistics. Durant saw what the Nets needed with two-thirds of the team’s Big Three hobbled, after consecutive losses and a sense of things slipping away, and with Milwaukee determined to prevent from happening exactly what happened.
So he went out and got it for them. Across 48 minutes, in fact, playing every tick of the clock to secure the victory. That’s what little margin for error Brooklyn had until the very end, with Kyrie Irving (ankle sprain) out and James Harden (hamstring tightness) an unknown as he tried to play for the first time in 10 days.
“It’s ridiculous what he’s able to do,” Nets coach Steve Nash said of Durant. “We knew he was capable of nights like this, but to do it tonight… We miss Ky, James obviously is soldiering through his ailments. We’re down bodies, we’re wounded. And for him to have the toughness, the mentality. That’s what makes him one of the all-time greats.”
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