Kevin Durant saved the Brooklyn Nets with a legendary performance.
The Nets overcame a 17-point deficit, the absence of Kyrie Irving and a hobbled James Harden.
Behind Durant’s beautiful basketball, Brooklyn defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 114- 108 on Tuesday, taking a 3-2 series lead in this Eastern Conference semifinal matchup. Game 6 is Thursday (8:30 p.m., ESPN), and with a victory, the Nets will advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2003.
Durant recorded his second career playoff triple-double with 49 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, plus three steals and two blocks. Durant turned in an efficient performance, too, shooting 16-of-23 from the field and 13-of-16 on free throws.
His 3-pointer with 50.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter — just before the shot clock expired — put the Nets ahead 109-105. He recorded a late steal and made 3-of-4 free throws in the final 15 seconds.
He is just the fourth player in NBA history to have at least 40 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a playoff game, joining Oscar Robertson, Charles Barkley and Luka Doncic. He is the first playoff history with at last 45 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.
Except for timeouts, halftime and between quarters, Durant didn’t get a rest. He played all 48 minutes in a performance that will go down as one of the best of his career.
This wasn’t as much of a Bucks collapse as it was the Nets playing stellar basketball in the second half. Durant led the Nets, but he had help from Jeff Green, who had 27 points and shot 7-of-8 on 3-pointers. Blake Griffin added 17 points.
Down 76-60, the Nets began their comeback midway through the third quarter and trimmed the lead to six by the start of the fourth.
Brooklyn tied it at 91-91 and took its first lead since the game’s opening bucket on Durant’s 3-pointer, making it 94-93. He continued to make big shot after big shot and followed that 3 with another 3.
The Nets outscored the Bucks 71-49 in the second half.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points and 12 rebounds, and Khris Middleton had 25 for the Bucks.
It wasn’t enough against Durant.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.