The onus was always going to be on Kevin Durant to help carry the Brooklyn Nets to the next level — it was only magnified when Kyrie Irving was ruled out for Game 5 while James Harden toughed it out through a hamstring injury.
Not only did Durant answer the call, but he put on another display as to why he’s one, if not the best basketball player on the planet, dropping 49 points in 48 minutes with 17 rebounds and 10 assists on 16-of-23 shooting from the floor in a 114-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night at Barclays Center to take a 3-2 series lead.
He became the first player in NBA postseason history to record a triple-double of 45 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, making up for Harden who clearly struggled upon his return from reaggravating his hamstring 43 seconds into Game 1. Harden shot just 1-of-10 from the field, missed all eight three-point attempts, and posted eight assists and six rebounds.
Durant got most of his support from veteran forward Jeff Green, who nailed seven three-pointers on his way to 27 points, helping to cancel out the 34-point, 12-rebound performance put forth by Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
A poor start from Brooklyn saw the Bucks jump out to a healthy early advantage that they maintained for a majority of the night — most notably a 16-point advantage at halftime that carried midway into the third quarter.
That was when Durant took over, posting 11 points in the last six minutes of the frame to cut the Nets’ deficit to six before his hot hand gave the Nets their first lead at 94-93 with 8:36 to go in the game since it was 2-0.
In total, Durant dropped 31 of his 49 points in the second half, putting an exclamation point with 50 seconds remaining to give the Nets a 109-105 lead —a margin they would maintain until the final buzzer.