kevin durant
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant made a statement in Game 5 with James Harden operating at half-speed as the Nets top the Bucks 114-108.

Danny Small

There’s no need to bury the lede here. Kevin Durant was downright sensational for the Brooklyn Nets in a pivotal Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Brooklyn takes a 3-2 lead back to Milwaukee for Game 6 because of one of the all-time great performances in playoff history. Durant is otherworldly.

Stat lines rarely tell the full story of a game, but this Durant box score doesn’t need any context. It is an all-time performance from an all-time great player.

Durant notched 49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals, two blocks, and three turnovers. Better yet he did it on 16-for-23 from the floor and played all 48 minutes. Durant might be the single biggest reason why NBA fans obsess over efficiency nowadays.

James Harden shocked the world by coming back from a hamstring strain earlier than expected, but he wasn’t himself. Anyone with eyes could see that. The first half was all Milwaukee. They opened up a 17-point lead at one point and carried that double-digit lead into the third quarter.

But the Bucks couldn’t give the Nets that kill shot that the latter gave the former in Game 2. Milwaukee allowed the Nets to stay within striking distance and that would be their downfall.

Let’s also give some credit to Jeff Green for his showing on Tuesday night. In addition to playing solid defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo, he hit his first seven three-pointers en route to 27 points on 11 shots. We might as well have taken a time machine back to 2008 to watch the SuperSonics.

Nets coach Steve Nash made some key adjustments to turn the tide in this game. They made some slight tweaks, most notably going to Durant more as an initiator rather than off baseline screens and post-ups in the second half. Durant was an assassin and putting the ball in his hands was Nash’s only option.

They needed him to be sensational with Harden slowed. It took the pair a little bit to get on the same page, but once they did, the Bucks had no chance.

Brooklyn’s role players were a mixed bag — Green was a godsend, Joe Harris was awful, Blake Griffin was gritty, and the rest were shaky.

But again, Durant wasn’t going to let the Nets lose this game. The talking heads are going to have something to talk about on Wednesday morning.

That second half could prove to be the turning point in this series. The Bucks had the Nets staring down an elimination game in the Fiserv Forum on Thursday. Instead, Giannis and his mates need to beat Durant twice in two games.

As much as the focus should be on Durant, the Bucks made some head-scratching decisions. The Nets hunted Brook Lopez in the pick-and-roll but Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer refused to adjust the coverages until it was too late.

Giannis struggled down the stretch as he settled for three-pointers and fadeaways from the post. Using Antetokounmpo as an initiator forces him into these shots when he could be playing the five and setting screens. Bad job by Budenholzer to let the offense stagnate.

Also, the duo of Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday was just 8-for-21 from the floor in the second half. They couldn’t keep up with Durant.

Are the Nets favorites to win it all again? Durant answered that question without any equivocation.