Last night’s Game 5 between the Nets and Bucks was one for the ages, featuring a herculean performance from Kevin Durant, who netted 49 points, 17 boards, 10 assists, three steals and two blocks while playing every minute of Brooklyn’s 114-108 win. It was high drama with Durant, running on absolute fumes, drilling a late-game dagger in front of Khris Middleton to preserve the Nets’ victory, vaulting Brooklyn to a 3-2 series lead.
With Kyrie Irving (ankle) absent and James Harden severely compromised by a nagging hamstring injury (he shot a dismal 1-of-10 including 0-of-8 from deep while largely serving as a decoy Tuesday night), the Nets’ playoff fate rests squarely on the shoulders of Durant, a tall order for a player who has logged a combined 133 minutes (44.3 per game) over his last three contests.
But remember, this isn’t March or April. Every game matters now and the Nets, an admittedly top-heavy team propped up by its three generational talents, can’t afford a letdown. The margin of error at this late juncture in the season is simply too small. With half the league unraveling (Chris Paul has COVID, hobbled Sixers big man Joel Embiid looks broken and now Kawhi Leonard’s health appears to be in question), whoever makes it out of the second round alive stands a reasonable chance of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy next month.
Considering the stakes, it’s baffling anyone would suggest the Nets punt Game 6 in Milwaukee Thursday night, but TNT’s Reggie Miller seems to be advocating for exactly that, arguing that Brooklyn should give Durant and Harden a breather and take their chances in Saturday’s winner-take-all Game 7 at Barclays Center.
It’s debatable whether Miller truly believed what he was saying or simply wanted to provoke the Twitter masses with an inflammatory take (if so, mission accomplished), but it certainly riled people up.
Durant’s heavy minutes in Game 5 could have a hangover effect Thursday night, but with Brooklyn’s season on the line, sitting him is not an option.