Sports

Nets’ Kevin Durant shows Cavs why he’s ultimate heartbreaker

He’ll break your coronary heart, each time. It’s what he does. You may battle and scratch and claw from 20 factors again; the Cavaliers did that Tuesday evening. You may sneak the deficit into single digits, with sufficient time left on the clock to dream; the Cavs did that, too. The Cavs have been outclassed, outmanned, outgunned for 3 ½ quarters.

But right here they have been.

And it didn’t matter.

As a result of Kevin Durant performs for the Brooklyn Nets, and so he wasn’t going to permit the unthinkable to occur on his watch. He wasn’t going to permit the Cavs to tug off an absurd comeback, wasn’t going to allow his crew to need to endure a one-and-done gauntlet Friday evening.

Thrice, simply because the Cavs have been beginning to get humorous concepts, he crushed them with clutch essential baskets, and he allowed Barclays Middle to roar and his teammates to breathe. He broke the Cavs’ spirit after which he broke their hearts. It’s what he does.

“That’s as marketed,” Nets coach Steve Nash mentioned after the Nets had overwhelmed the Cavs, 115-108, clinching a date with the Celtics within the playoffs; Sport 1 between the second-seeded C’s and seventh-seeded Nets might be Sunday.

Nets
Kevin Durant led the Nets to a win over the Cavaliers within the play-in recreation on Tuesday.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Publish

For many of the evening it was Durant’s working mate, Kyrie Irving, who ignited the social gathering in Brooklyn. He hit all 11 of his photographs by way of the third quarter. He completed with 34 factors and 12 assists, lacking simply three of his 15 photographs.

“They’re superstars,” Nash mentioned. “It’s what high gamers do.”

The Cavs had lower the Nets’ result in 88-82 when Darius Garland made a 10-foot floater with 8:43 left; it was as shut because the Cavs had been for the reason that first quarter, however Durant promptly drained a nook 3 to increase the result in 9. Later, the Cavs crawling again to inside 99-93, Durant hit back-to-back 16 footers to increase the Nets’ result in 103-93.

And that was that.

Durant completed with 25 factors and 11 assists. Irving might have taken the followers’ breath away; Durant was the one who restored it when issues began to look somewhat dicey. It’s what he does.

Nets
Kyrie Irving (l.) celebrates with Kevin Durant.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Publish

“We knew they’d throw lots of completely different defenses at us, attempt to gradual us down,” Durant mentioned. “It’s going to take lots of effort for 48 minutes every recreation. We’ll see what occurs.”

Overlook every little thing that bewitched, bothered and bewildered the Nets this season. There was one purpose to tune in each evening to look at them play — properly, a minimum of 55 days and nights, anyway, plus Tuesday evening. Kevin Durant is that purpose.

Nothing else has gone in keeping with plan throughout this three-year chapter. The Nets have been shortly excused from the bubble in 2020. James Harden pushed his means right here, arrived and performed properly, grew disenchanted, pushed his means out, all within the house of 14 months. Irving has been damage, he’s been unvaccinated and unavailable. The Nets have been going to win 60 video games this yr. They settled on 44, and wanted a 12-5 scorching streak on the finish to get there.

Nets
Kevin Durant
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Publish

By all of it, Durant has been magnificent.

By all of it, Durant has been the one factor the Nets can rely on, recreation after recreation, evening after evening, disaster after disaster. He was given a novice coach and all he’s executed is assist make Nash’s job simpler for him. He was given a pair of supporting stars in Harden and Irving who have been chronically unreliable and a 3rd, Ben Simmons, who has but to go well with up for the Nets — and simply stored enjoying at an nearly unimaginably excessive stage.

By all of it, Durant has remained, at age 33, at worst the third- or fourth-best basketball participant on the planet, averaging 29.9/7.4/6.4 and capturing .518/.383/.910.

(One man’s checklist, for kicks and giggles: 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo; 2. Nikola Jokic; 3. Durant; 4. Joel Embiid. Although I’d vote Jokic for MVP.)

Durant’s personal alternative may shock you.

“If I had to decide on, I’d go Joel Embiid,” Durant mentioned. “He led the league in scoring, double-doubles, his crew gained 50 video games this yr. Numbers have been unimaginable. It’s an important yr. However you’ll be able to simply shut your eyes and simply decide any one of many guys out of the highest six or seven, and you may have MVP this yr. That exhibits how nice our league is true now and the way gifted our league is from high to backside.”

Amongst these six or seven, in fact, is Durant, who consistently has shaken off the varied and varied points that subvert the Nets’ mission, who merely makes them higher by stepping on the ground and breaking the opposite crew’s coronary heart. It’s what he does.

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