The Brooklyn Nets needed much more than points Tuesday night, so Kevin Durant gave them one of the most spectacular performances in postseason history.
Durant had 49 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, sending the Nets back into the lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 114-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5.
“I know the perception of me is that I can score the basketball well, but any team that I’ve played on, I’ve been asked to do pretty much everything from rebounding to defending to initiating to scoring,” Durant said. “I might not do it all the time but I do a little bit of everything.”
In Game 5, it was a whole lot of everything. The two-time NBA finals MVP became the first player to have at least 45 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a playoff game.
“Historic, historic performance,” Nets coach Steve Nash said.
With James Harden returning but delivering little offense and Kyrie Irving out, Durant played all 48 minutes and shot 16 for 23 from the field. The four-time scoring champion had 20 points in the fourth quarter, perhaps the biggest shot a three-pointer with 50 seconds left and the Nets protecting a one-point lead.
“The injuries that he’s been through, to come back even from the Achilles to the hamstring to get back in this position, the world is witnessing, once again, who is the best player in the world,” Nets forward Jeff Green said.
There was no argument from the Bucks.
“He’s the best player in the world right now and we’ve got to beat him as a team,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’ve got to guard him as a team. We’ve got to make him make tough shots like tonight. We’ve just got to keep doing our job and hopefully he’s going to miss.”
Harden played for the first time since leaving 43 seconds into the series opener with right hamstring tightness. He shot just one for 10 and missed all eight of his three-pointers, but had eight assists and six rebounds while playing 46 minutes.
“I woke up and was like, ‘You know what? Let’s go,’” Harden said. “I tried to go out there and do the best I can. Hopefully I gave my teammates some encouragement and some life.”