One night time after his former crew, the Warriors, missed the playoffs for the second straight yr since he left, Kevin Durant had the ground to himself. Yes, he was on the market together with his fellow superstars, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, who positive had their moments in opposition to Boston on this Game 1.
But on a sure degree Saturday night time, given all the pieces Durant has endured, Brooklyn’s Big 3 felt just a bit like Brooklyn’s Big 1. KD made his return to the playoffs a really large deal, as he shook off some early best-of-seven rust to guide the Nets with 32 factors and 12 rebounds of their grand postseason debut, a 104-93 victory over the Celtics at Barclays Center.
Durant shot 2-for-10 within the first quarter as Boston carried the combat to the house crew, and carried the lead into the second half. It didn’t matter. Durant made the photographs when it mattered most. His 3-pointer early within the third quarter gave the Nets a lead they by no means relinquished. His steal and breakaway dunk within the center of the fourth felt like a knockout punch. He outplayed Jayson Tatum, and the entire night time put one other punctuation mark on a bodily and emotional comeback that ought to notarize his toughness, and his coronary heart, forevermore.
This comeback was framed, mentioned Nets coach Steve Nash, by quite a bit of questions “and a lot of doubt. Who knows if he comes back to any level near what he was accustomed to?” This Game 1 efficiency wasn’t basic Durant domination, however the nice ones nonetheless get 32 and 12 within the playoffs with their B materials.
“It’s always great playing in this time of year,” Durant mentioned. “That intensity is the next level. … It felt great to be out there among the best teams and the best players in the league. Look forward to Game 2.”
The day after Durant blew out his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 Finals, I requested Tiger Woods why athletes in championship moments are prepared to threat important damage in pursuit of victory. Woods had famously gained the 2008 U.S. Open by taking part in 91 holes, together with an prolonged playoff, with a torn ACL and a damaged leg.
Woods spoke of “how solemn [Durant’s] face went” after he crumbled to the Game 5 court docket. “And no one can help you,” Woods mentioned.
“That’s the hard part. … That’s what people don’t see, all those long hours that really do suck. And why do we do it? Because we’re competitors.”
We all noticed Durant’s aggressive spirit that night time, how he risked all the pieces — his well being, his legacy, and his upcoming free-agent rating although Golden State was trailing the Raptors 3-1, and more likely to lose the collection regardless. The individuals who had questioned whether or not Durant had stayed out too lengthy together with his calf damage, or whether or not he had already, in his thoughts, deserted the Warriors for the Knicks or Nets or another person ended up trying fairly silly. Durant knew his physique like no one else knew his physique. So he needed to know, deep down, when he determined to play Game 5 that one thing might go terribly fallacious.
Durant performed anyway, a choice that led to surgical procedure earlier than he signed with Brooklyn for 4 years and $164 million, and joined his man Irving. Durant spent 18 months on the sideline, skipping Bubble Ball alongside the way in which. So Saturday night time was an enormous night time in Brooklyn, the place Durant stepped again into the playoffs after his previous pal Steph Curry was eradicated by Memphis within the play-in match.
Now it’s legacy time once more for Durant, who can add to the 2 championships he gained with the Warriors. He was extensively criticized for leaving Oklahoma City for a Golden State crew that had already gained a title, that had crushed his Thunder within the convention finals, and that had established itself as a ready-made champ for a famous person in want of a hoop. That criticism stung Durant, a delicate kind who has an extended reminiscence in terms of actual or imagined slights.
In Brooklyn, he doesn’t have to fret about critics saying he had boarded a practice that had already arrived on the station. If the Nets win this championship, no credible voice can inform Durant that it wasn’t self-made.
Not that he deserved any criticism within the first place. Durant knew he could be in the end judged on his ring assortment, so he well signed up with Golden State. And then in his closing 2019 sport, he put all the pieces on the road for that franchise, and paid a heavy value for it.
Kevin Durant made all of it the way in which again to the postseason earlier than the Warriors did, and performed 39 successful minutes in Game 1. Once once more, with feeling, KD proved that he’ll go down as an traditionally nice participant. And one very robust dude.