kevin durant nets
Rick Osentoski | USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant leads shorthanded Nets to victory with a 51-point performance

Kevin Durant is a bad, bad man. There really isn’t much else to say. The league’s leading scorer did what James Harden couldn’t do a few nights ago in Houston — lead the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets to a win over an inferior opponent.

The Nets would be without the services of Harden (rest) and Paul Millsap who was out due to personal reasons. This mattered not to Durant as he put on a scoring clinic the likes of which have only been done 10 times in franchise history. After going the first five minutes of the game scoreless, Durant would quickly heat up scoring 11 points over the next four minutes of action. At the time it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary as Durant usually has solid opening quarter performances.

The second quarter again saw Durant not get going until the midway mark. After starting the second on the bench Durant would keep the Nets afloat as Detroit started to close the gap. He’d go into halftime with 22 points after a second consecutive double-digit scoring quarter. It wasn’t until the third quarter that it appeared we might be in for a special night.

Durant scored the first 13 points of the quarter for Brooklyn and would actually score 16 of the team’s 26 points in the frame. No matter what spot on the floor you pointed to it seemed Durant was scoring from. He did it from three-point land, at the basket, from the foul line, and of course his handy dandy midrange elbow jumper. By the time the fourth rolled around it was clear a 40-piece was certain, but the final total was still up in the air.

The crescendo of Durant’s masterpiece came in the fourth quarter as the reigning player of the month led a spirit-crushing run which gave Brooklyn a lead that they’d never relinquish. Stuck on 49, Durant would capture his 50-burger with just over a minute left on one of his patented baseline jumpers. When the dust settled, The Slim Reaper would end with 51 points on 16-for-31 shooting including a 5-for-10 performance from deep and 14-for-15 at the charity stripe. He’d also add seven rebounds and nine assists.

On a night where one wouldn’t think an offensive explosion the likes of this was necessary, Kevin Durant showed why he should be at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to MVP voting.

Coincidentally the Nets actually started the game with some urgency. Something of a rarity this season. They opened on a 14-6 run, all before Durant would score his first points and even took a 13-point lead at one point. Unfortunately, the hot start couldn’t prevent the Nets from falling back into their lackadaisical ways as Detroit would reinsert themselves back into the game.

The Pistons, who came into the night losers of 11 straight and without the services of leading scorer Jerami Grant, gave the Nets fits throughout the second and third quarters. The Pistons would outscore Brooklyn in both the middle quarters and would hold as large as a seven-point lead. Frank Jackson and Saben Lee provided a huge lift off the bench for Detroit as the two would combine for 42 points.

The turnover bug would also rear its ugly head for Brooklyn and was a big reason why Detroit was able to punch above their weight class. There was a stretch during the third quarter where the Nets struggled just to get the ball over half-court. Ten of Brooklyn’s 18 total turnovers would come in the third which saw Detroit take a five-point lead into the fourth.

However, much like Friday night against Atlanta, the Nets would start the final 12 minutes with a bang. Brooklyn exploded with a 15-1 run that completely took the life out of an energetic Detroit crowd. Assisting Durant in that fourth-quarter takeover was rookie Cam Thomas who scored nine of his 13 points.

It was also another defensive masterclass by the Nets. For the third time on the road trip, the Nets held their opponent to 15 or fewer points in the fourth. The group did a great job getting into passing lanes and forcing tough shots. Nic Claxton and Bruce Brown made life especially difficult for the young Detroit squad. Claxton collected a block and a steal while Brown’s on-ball pressure and key switching ability were vital aspects in Brooklyn’s prison-like defensive effort.

With the win, Brooklyn completes their road trip with a 3-1 record. All the wins coming in comeback efforts as well. Ignoring the letdown performance against the Rockets, Brooklyn continues to chug along and collect wins all while continuing to figure things out.

Notes on Durant performance:

  • Highest-scoring game in NBA this season
  • 10th 50+ point game in Nets history
  • 8th career 50+ point game for Durant
Justin Thomas is a graduate of Temple University. While there, he was an on-air sports talk host for W.H.I.P as well as sports reporter for the Temple yearbook. Over the past few years, Justin has written for a few publications including Sports Illustrated. On top of writing for ESNY, Justin is also a Senior Writer for and has had work featured on Bleacher Report.