NBA players react to Kevin Durant’s epic performance against Milwaukee

The Brooklyn Nets needed Kevin Durant to be extra special and then some on Tuesday night, and he was all of that and maybe a little more.

Without Kyrie Irving and a limited James Harden, Durant put on a performance for the ages. The former MVP had a triple-double with 49 points on 16/23 shooting, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists as the Nets rallied to defeat the Bucks 114-108 at Barclays Center in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series.  

Durant, who played all 48 minutes, became the first player in NBA playoff history to have 45-plus points, 15-plus rebounds, and 10-plus assists in a game. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Durant’s 49 points are the second-most in a triple-double game in playoff history.

“I was trying to win each possession,” Durant said after the game. “And I didn’t think of how many points I had or shot attempts, rebounds, assists.”

The Nets have a 3-2 series lead, and Game 6 is on Thursday night in Milwaukee.

The Bucks, who had a 17-point third-quarter lead, will be kicking themselves all summer long if they lose this series. This was a golden opportunity for Milwaukee to put themselves in a position to close out the series in Game 6. Now, they have to win two straight, including one at Barclays Center, to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

Regarding Durant, this might have been his signature moment. The Nets needed every one of his 49 points on Tuesday night. However, with Harden still not looking one-hundred-percent and Irving probably out for the series, Durant might need to have another big performance for Brooklyn to advance.

Don’t bet against the greatness of Durant. He has the potential to do this again, and don’t bet against the Bucks.

This series is not over!

 NBA players from around the league were impressed by Durant’s special performance:

Jokic, Antetokounmpo, Curry, Leonard, Doncic named to First Team All-NBA

League MVP Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, and Luka Doncic were named to the 2020-21 All-NBA First Team, the league announced on Tuesday.

Antetokounmpo was the only player to receive All-NBA First Team votes on all 100 ballots, earning his third consecutive First Team selection and fifth All-NBA Team honor overall. Jokic, the first player to be named the NBA MVP as a member of the Nuggets, received 99 First Team votes to make the First Team for the second time in the last three seasons. Curry, who averaged an NBA-leading 32.0 points this season, received 98 First Team votes in his fourth selection to the First Team and seventh All-NBA Team honor overall.

Leonard was voted to the All-NBA First Team for the third time and earned his fifth All-NBA Team selection. The 22-year-old Doncic has been selected to the All-NBA First Team for the second season in a row. He is the first player to make the All-NBA First Team at least twice in his first three NBA seasons since Tim Duncan (three times from 1997-98 – 1999-2000).

The 2020-21 All-NBA Second Team consists of Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, New York Knicks forward Julius Randle, and Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James.

The 2020-21 All-NBA Third Team is composed of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler, Clippers forward Paul George, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, and Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving.

James has extended his league record for most All-NBA Team selections to 17, including a record 13 selections to the First Team, three to the Second Team, and one to the Third Team. Paul has been voted to the All-NBA Team for the 10th time, the second-most among active players behind James.

This is the sixth All-NBA Team selection for Lillard and George, the fourth for Gobert and Butler, and the third for Embiid and Irving. Randle and Beal have each been selected to the All-NBA Team for the first time.

Mavs’ Doncic named to All-NBA First Team

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic was named to the 2020-21 All-NBA First Team, marking the second straight year he has garnered All-NBA First Team honors, the NBA announced on Tuesday.

Doncic becomes the youngest player in league history to earn multiple All-NBA First Team selections. He joins Kevin Durant, Rick Barry and Max Zaslofsky as one of four players to garner multiple All-NBA First Team accolades before age 23. The third-year guard also joins George Gervin, David Thompson, Larry Bird, David Robinson, Penny Hardaway and Tim Duncan as one of seven players since the ABA/NBA merger (1976-77) to earn two-or-more All-NBA First Team selections within their first three seasons.

Doncic averaged a team-best 27.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, a team-high 8.6 assists and a team-high 34.3 minutes in 66 games (all starts) this season. He ranked sixth in the NBA in scoring, 21st in rebounding and fifth in assists, finishing in the top 25 for all three categories for the second year in a row.

The Slovenian led the NBA in 30-point, five-rebound, five-assist games (22) and 25-5-5 efforts (38). He led Dallas in points, rebounds and assists in the same game 22 times (including ties), the second-most times a player led his team in all three categories in 2020-21 (behind the 28 times the league MVP Nikola Jokić led Denver in all three this season).

Doncic climbed into 11th place on the NBA’s all-time triple-doubles list in 2020-21 (36) and is eight triple-doubles shy of passing Fat Lever (43) for 10th place all-time. He scored 25-plus points in a career-high 14 straight games (1/22-2/14), setting a new franchise record for most consecutive 25-point efforts. He also hit two game-winning 3-pointers with under a second remaining (2/23 vs. BOS; 4/14 at MEM).

The 22-year-old started his second straight All-Star Game in 2020-21, becoming the sixth player in NBA history to start multiple All-Star games before their 23rd birthday (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Isiah Thomas, Barry). He was also named the Western Conference Player of the Week three times (1/4-1/10; 3/29-4/4; 4/19-4/25), joining Dirk Nowitzki (four times, 2009-10) as the only players in franchise history to garner the award three-or-more times in a single season.

In the postseason, Doncic increased his scoring average to a league-best 35.7 points to go along with 7.9 rebounds and a team-high 10.3 assists while logging a team-high 40.2 minutes in seven first round games against the L.A. Clippers. He joined Russell Westbrook (37.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 10.8 apg, 5 first round games vs. HOU, 2017) as the only players in NBA history to average at least 35-7-10 in a playoff series.

Doncic is now averaging 33.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 9.5 assists through 13 career playoff games. Not only is he the sole player in NBA history with career playoff averages of at least 30.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game, but he has now surpassed Michael Jordan (33.4 ppg) for the highest career scoring average in postseason history (min. 10 games).

The 76ers may regret their Game 4 loss to Atlanta

The fewer games you play in the postseason, the better off you will be. As the playoffs continue for the Philadelphia 76ers, they might regret what transpired on Monday night in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Atlanta Hawks. 

Philadelphia led by as many as 18 points against the Hawks in the first half, but Joel Embiid would struggle in the second half, and Atlanta would rally and win Game 4 at home 103-100 to even this best-of-seven series at 2.  

Game 5 is Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

Embiid, who was 0-12 from the field in the second half, was 4-20 from the field and finished with 17 points and 21 rebounds. However, he was clearly limited by the right meniscus tear he suffered in the first round against Washington. At one point in Game 4, Embiid had to go back to the locker room to deal with the knee.

“I thought in the beginning of the game when I went back to the locker room, I just felt like I didn’t have it tonight,” Embiid said.

As bad as he played in this game, Embiid, who was averaging 30.8 points and 13.o rebounds per game in the first four games of this series, had an opportunity to give the 76ers a lead late in the game but missed a layup with 16.6 seconds left. According to Embiid, he did have enough lift to finish.

“Great look. Great look. I just didn’t have the lift,” Embiid said. “Thought I got fouled too. But usually, I would go up, especially for a bucket like that, try to dunk it.”

Philly is the better team in this series, which makes this loss even harder to stomach for them. Who knows how many games Embiid’s knee has left in the playoffs?

The 76ers will still win this series, probably in six, but winning in five games would have been better because Embiid could use the rest. 

The 76ers have championship aspirations, and when you are going for a championship, you don’t want to play extra games. So now, unfortunately for Philadelphia, they have to play at least one additional game in this series, and if they are not careful, it could be two.

Gobert, Simmons lead the way on NBA All-Defensive First Team

NBA Defensive Player of the Year Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons lead the 2020-21 NBA All-Defensive First Team, the NBA announced on Monday.  

Joining Gobert and Simmons on the NBA All-Defensive First Team are Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, and forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Gobert, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, has been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team for the fifth season in a row. This marks the second straight First Team selection for Simmons, the runner-up for NBA Defensive Player of the Year this season.  

Green has been selected to the NBA All-Defensive First Team for the fourth time to go with two Second Team honors. Holiday is a First Team honoree for the second time. Antetokounmpo, the 2019-20 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time Kia NBA Most Valuable Player, has earned his third consecutive NBA All-Defensive First Team selection.

The 2020-21 NBA All-Defensive Second Team consists of Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo and guard Jimmy Butler, 76ers center Joel Embiid  and guard Matisse Thybulle , and LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard has been named to the NBA All-Defensive Team (First Team and Second Team) for the seventh time. This is the fifth NBA All-Defensive Team selection for Butler, the third for Embiid, and the second for Adebayo. Thybulle is making his All-Defensive Team debut in his second NBA season.

The Nets could be in trouble against Milwaukee

In Game 3, the Brooklyn Nets, who were up 2-0 in their best-of-seven second-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, had an 83-80 lead with under two minutes to go. However, Milwaukee outscored the Nets 6-0 to finish the game, including a Jrue Holiday layup to put them up for good as they defeated the Nets 86-83. 

Brooklyn was so close to taking a commanding 3-0 lead, and that’s why it’s so important to close teams out when you have a chance.

On Sunday at Fiserv Forum, the Bucks defeated the Nets 107-96 in Game 4. The series is now tied at 2. The pivotal Game 5 is Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

Unfortunately for the Nets, they might be without James Harden(hamstring) and Kyrie Irving(ankle). Harden has not been active since injuring his right hamstring in Game 1 of this series, which was the same hamstring that forced him to miss time in the regular season, and Irving left Game 4 in the second quarter and did not return after turning his ankle on a layup attempt. Irving reportedly left the arena in a walking boot and crutches.

“It was a big adjustment tonight to play without him(Irving) and James(Harden), but we’ve had that type of year,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said after Game 4. “So, we have to find a way to figure it out, to look at the tape and get better.”

With Irving and Durant, the Nets were able to take a 2-0 series lead. Without Harden and Irving, the pressure is on Durant to be at his best, and Durant is good enough to carry this team to victory in one game, but he’s not good enough to do it over the final three games of this series, and while Durant did score 28 points in Game 4, he did shoot 9-25 from the field and seemed bothered by the defense of Milwaukee’s P.J. Tucker, but again, this is Durant, so we know he can bounce back.

The momentum is clearly on the side of the Bucks. Without Harden and Irving, the Bucks are the more talented team, but this is why home-court advantage is vital because role players tend to be better at home, so that means guys like Joe Harris, Bruce Brown, and Landry Shamet could step up for Brooklyn.

But in the end, no Harden, no Irving, could mean the Nets’ season could end in the second- round of the playoffs, which would be a huge disappointment.

 

 

Suns’ Williams on Paul: ‘What could you say other than he was darn-near perfect all night long’

When the Phoenix Suns acquired Chris Paul from the OKC Thunder in the offseason, they got a veteran who can guide a solid collection of young talent, and based on what’s going on in these playoffs, the Suns made the right move.

On Sunday night, the Phoenix Suns defeated the Denver Nuggets 125-118 in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals to sweep the series and advance to the Western Conference finals.

Paul was remarkable in this game. The 11-time All-Star scored 37 points on 14/19 shooting and seven assists. He was exceptional in the third quarter. Paul was 6-6 from the field with 12 points, and as they have done in every game this series, Phoenix outscored the Nuggets in the third quarter and took a 95-83 lead into the fourth quarter.

At one point, Paul made eight straight midrange jumpers. According to StatMuse, Paul scored 37 points without taking a three-point shot, which ties Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most points ever without a three-point field attempt by a 36-year old or older in a playoff game.

According to Suns head coach Monty Williams, Paul played a relatively perfect game.

“What could you say other than he was darn-near perfect all night long,” Williams said. “Scoring the ball, managing the clock, he and I had communication throughout the game on what was working.”

Paul, who got a sweep for the first time in his career and is back in the conference finals for the first time since 2018, showed the world that he still has a lot of basketball left in him. In this series, he averaged 25.5 points and 10.2 assists per game, with only five turnovers.

“A couple years ago, they were writing me off,” Paul told TNT’s Chris Haynes after the game. “You can’t do this.’ This ain’t about me; it’s about us. Shows what you can do when you come together as a team. We’ve got a great team over there, and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of it.” 

Paul was not the only guy that stepped up for Phoenix in Game 4. Devin Booker had another big closeout game. Booker scored 34 points and grabbed 11 rebounds on Sunday night. In the first-round series against the Lakers, Booker scored 47 points in the series-clinching win. Also, Booker and Paul became the first Suns’ teammates to score 30-plus in a playoff game since 2005.

The Suns now focus on the Western Conference finals, and after winning seven straight in the playoffs, it’s clear this team has a great rhythm, and if Paul stays healthy, Phoenix will be a tough out for the Jazz, Clippers, or anybody in the NBA. 

With size(Deandre Ayton), and excellent guard play, Phoenix can win an NBA title; it’s just that simple.

Suns’ Williams on Paul: ‘He’s putting guys in position to score the ball, but again, he’s done that his whole career’

The Phoenix Suns are one win away from getting to the Western Conference Finals after defeating the Denver Nuggets 116-102 at Ball Arena on Friday night.

Phoenix has a commanding 3-0 series lead with an opportunity to sweep this second-round best-of-seven-series in Game 4 in Denver on Sunday night. 

The Suns have not been to the conference finals since 2010.

All five Suns’ starters scored in double figures, led by Devin Booker’s 28 points, six rebounds, and four assists, Chris Paul’s 27 points, eight assists, and six rebounds, and Deandre Ayton had 10 points and 15 rebounds.

Nikola Jokic, who received his MVP trophy on Friday night, had a triple-double and led the Nuggets with 32 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 assists—joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only two others players in NBA history to have a 30/20/10 game in the playoffs.

The Suns had another big third quarter in Game 3 and outscored the Nuggets 31-21 on Friday night. In total, Phoenix has outscored Denver by 29 points in the third quarter this series.

The moment Paul got right from the shoulder injury was the moment Phoenix started to take off in these playoffs. The Suns have won six straight in the playoffs by an average of 17 points per game. Paul has 34 assists and three turnovers in this series against the Nuggets. Also, Paul has been magical in the fourth quarter in this series against Denver; Paul has scored 30 points, including eight points on Friday night, on 12-13 from the field, with eight assists and zero turnovers. 

“He an unbelievable basketball player, but he has an unbelievable mind and will to play the game,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said about Paul. “So, I’m not even sure he even thinks about the turnovers. I think he’s just trying to make the right plays. He’s putting guys in position to score the ball, but again, he’s done that his whole career.

Despite being down 3-0, Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone, whose team came back from 3-1 twice in the playoffs last season, hopes his team can be the first to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs in NBA history.

“As far as the 3-0 deficit, yes, history is not on our side,” Malone said. “But you know what? We have rewritten history the last couple of years. When we were down 3-1 twice last year, it was never about trying to win three more games. It was about winning the next game, winning the first quarter, winning the second quarter, and that’s got to be our mindset.”

Denver appears to be a team that has run out of gas. They are without their second-best player in point guard Jamal Murray, which puts more pressure on Jokic, who can’t do any more than what he did on Friday night. 

This series probably over. No one has come back from 3-0 in NBA history, and barring a miracle, it probably does not happen in this series.

Clippers’ Ibaka out for postseason after back surgery

LA Clippers center Serge Ibaka underwent back surgery in Los Angeles on Thursday, the team announced on Friday.

According to the team, Ibaka will miss the remainder of the NBA postseason and is expected to make a full recovery. The 31-year-old Ibaka missed 30 games with a back injury. Ibaka played the final two games of the regular season and the first two games of the playoffs but has not played since that time.

The 11-year veteran signed with the Clippers as a free agent in the offseason after spending four seasons in Toronto. Ibaka averaged 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per contest in 41 regular-season games with the Clippers this season.

Suns’ Williams on Paul: ‘He manages games better than anybody I’ve ever been around’

When Chris Paul is right, the Phoenix Suns are right, and that has been the case in the first two games of their second-round matchup against the Denver Nuggets, including Wednesday night’s 123-98 victory over Denver at Phoenix Suns Arena.

In 30 minutes of action, Paul had 17 points, 15 assists, five rebounds, and maybe the best number of all, zero turnovers. The Suns had six players in double figures, led by Devin Booker’s 18 points and 10 rebounds and Deandre Ayton’s 15 points and 10 rebounds.

According to StatMuse, Paul is the first player with 15 points, 15 assists, and zero turnovers in a playoff game since he did it in 2008 and 2014.

Phoenix holds a 2-0 series lead as the scene shifts to Denver for Games 3 and 4, starting on Friday night.

Phoenix led by 10 at halftime and took complete control in the third quarter. The Suns went on a 13-4 run to start the quarter and led by as many as 22 points in the third. Phoenix pushed their lead to as much as 31 points in the fourth quarter.

According to Suns head coach Monty Williams, Paul, who had 21 points and 11 assists in Game 1 of this series, is the best game manager he’s been around.

“He manages games better than anybody I’ve ever been around,” Williams said. “It’s not something I take for granted; it’s not something our team takes for granted.”

Paul, who passed Jerry West to move into 14th on the playoffs All-Time Assist leaderboard, added: “Just reading the game, man. Just finding open guys, picking my spots. We’ve got an unbelievable team in the way that we’ve got shooters.”

The 36-year-old Paul is the perfect point guard. He does everything right on the floor and makes sure everybody is in the right spots. The key for Paul is health, which has derailed his championship hopes in the past with the Clippers and Rockets. Clearly, if he stays healthy, Phoenix has a chance to make it to the NBA Finals and possibly win a title.