We’ve never seen Kevin Durant do it alone. It is often felt that he needed a complementary piece to excel – or at least that is the prevailing stigma. In Oklahoma City, he had Russell Westbrook and James Harden. In Golden State, he was second to Steph Curry. Sure, he has his ring (which most people tear off, saying he took the easy way out) and he’s a perennial All-Star, but we’ve never seen Durant have to carry the charge himself.
His talent has never been in question. He led the NBA in points per game in four of the five seasons between 2009 and 2014. He was always expected to have greatness ahead of him. We’ve seen him have monster performances in the playoffs, such as his 39-point swan song in Game 5 of the 2017 NBA Finals, securing his first championship and doing so against LeBron James.
But he always had the feeling of taking the path of least resistance, didn’t he?
With his jokes and drama on social media, and his willingness to take a fight with whoever keeps him funny, Durant went from a lovely superstar in Oklahoma City to a league villain in Golden State.
He then did it again, forming another super team a year ago in Brooklyn teaming up with Kyrie Irving, while joining James Harden in the fold via this year’s trade.
“We hate that guy,” the general public calls out.
It was late, however, we were treated to something different. Kyrie Irving is out with a sprained ankle. James Harden, hampered by a muscle injury, was able to play, but clearly was not the same.
So Durant did it himself.
At the 6:20 mark in the third quarter of Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Nets were on track 76-60. By this point, Brooklyn had beaten the Bucks 54-32. Durant had 31 points in the last quarter and a half. He did it while playing every second of the game. He has scored or helped over 43 of the Nets ’last 52 points. The Nets won 114-108.
Finish line: 49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three assists, two blocks.
“He’s the best player in the world right now,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said after the game.
It was a legendary performance, and I don’t use those words lightly. It was the first time a player had played every 48 minutes in a playoff game since LeBron made it to Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals between Cleveland and Boston. He shrugged the load and carried the transport, knowing that this was his night and no one else’s.
“I hadn’t thought about playing every minute, but when the game started to run, we went down,” Durant said in the postgame interview. “I said to the coach,‘ If you need to take me for a couple, it was great, but I feel good. “And he allowed me to kick him out.”
Durant went to full Rembrandt last night and painted a masterpiece that will hang in the gallery of NBA tradition forever.