When at his peak form, Kevin Durant makes a strong case for being the best basketball player in the world.
Even though he had just finished a lengthy recovery period from a ruptured right Achilles tendon, the former league MVP reminded everyone of the full extent of his capabilities as the Brooklyn Nets earned a 114-108 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Playing without Kyrie Irving and alongside a banged-up James Harden, the 32-year-old Durant recorded an astounding 49-point, 17-rebound, 10-assist triple-double for the entire 48-minute span of the pivotal home game.
Although Harden only managed 5 points and 8 assists on 1-of-10 shooting, he did play almost 46 minutes fresh off a hamstring tweak, which is encouraging news for a Nets team on the cusp of their first Eastern Conference Finals berth in 18 years.
Despite the loss of Irving for an indefinite time frame, Brooklyn is still beaming with positive points as their tumultuous season rolls along, and the same cannot be said for the Bucks.
Former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is still averaging 30.6 points and 12.0 rebounds for the series, but is being routinely exploited with his putrid 24% shooting clip from three and 42% from the free-throw line.
All-Star Khris Middleton is only shooting 38% from the field and 32% from downtown despite averaging 21.8 points. Jrue Holiday, the Bucks’ supposed point guard upgrade, is only norming 14.4 points, 6.2 assists, and 0.4 steals on a 40% clip and 60% from the line.
These combined struggles and repeated Bucks isolation plays have propelled the Nets, a team with notoriously bad defense all season long, to the top three of the league’s best playoff defenses, just a spot below the Bucks themselves.
Unlike the stacked Brooklyn squad, Milwaukee doesn’t have the same luxury of finding multiple options off their bench, and will just have to stick with their main cogs until the wheels fall off.
With their backs against the wall, the Bucks can only hope their home crowd can provide the spark they are desperately looking for.
Will the Nets continue dancing with their stars up the postseason bracket, or will the Bucks protect home turf, and force a winner-take-all Game 7?
Game 6 tips off on Friday, June 18, 8:30 am, Manila time.